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Shorter Plays 


Shorter Plays 


New York 

Copyright 1960 by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the 
Estate of George Bernard Shaw. 

All rights reserved 

WHY SHE WOULD NOT: Copyright 1956 by The Public Trustee, as Ex- 
ecutor of the Estate of George Bernard Shaw, Deceased. 

SHAKES VERSUS SHAY: Copyright 1949 by George Bernard Shaw. 
THE six OF CALAIS: Copyright 1934, 1936 by Bernard Shaw. 
ANNAJANSKA, THE BOLSHEVIK EMPRESS: Copyright 1919, 1930 by George 
Bernard Shaw. Renewal copyright 194$ by George Bernard Shaw. Re- 
newal copyright 1957 by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the Estate 
of George Bernard Shaw. 

AUGUSTUS DOES HIS BIT: Copyright 1919, 1930 by George Bernard Shaw. 
Renewal copyright 1948 by George Bernard Shaw. Renewal copyright 
1957 by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the Estate of George Bernard 

THE INCA OF JERUSALEM: Copyright 1919, 1930 by George Bernard Shaw. 
Renewal copyright 1948 by George Bernard Shaw. Renewal copyright 
1957 by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the Estate of George Bernard 

O'FLAHERTY v,c.: Copyright 19x9, 1930 by George Bernard Shaw. Re- 
newal copyright 1948 by George Bernard Shaw. Renewal copyright 1957 
by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the Estate of George Bernard Shaw, 

THE MUSIC-CURE; Copyright 1926 by George Bernard Shaw. Renewal 
copyright 1954 by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the Estate of George 
Bernard Shaw. 

THE SHEWINC-UP OF BLANCO posNET: Copyright 1913, 1930 by Bernard 
Shaw. Renewal copyright 1941 by George Bernard Shaw. Renewal copy- 
right 1957 by The Public Trustee, as Executor of the Estate of George 
Bernard Shaw. 

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs arc hereby warned that the above- 
mentioned plays, being fully protected under the Copyright Laws of th<- 
United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion of 
Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union, the Berne Con- 
vention, and the Universal Copyright Convention, are subject to royalty. 
All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lec- 
turing, public reading, radio and television broadcasting, and the rights of 
translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis 
is laid on the question of readings, permission for which must be secured 
from the author's agent or publisher in writing. All inquiries should be 
addressed to the author's agent or publisher. In their present form these 
plays are dedicated to the reading public only. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 60*16796 
Printed in the United States of America 



THE short plays in this selection with their prefaces, 
prefatory comments and epilogue, appearing in re- 
verse chronological order, may reveal different 
phases and stages of Shaw's genius. But it seems also pos- 
sible that this sampling scattered more or less regularly 
through his playwriting life may reveal a consistency of 
genius not subject to the usual waverings of time. 

WHY SHE WOULD NOT is the last play written by Ber- 
nard Shaw and it appears here in book form for the first 
time. The text in this book was set directly from the origi- 
nal typescript, incorporating all corrections in Shaw's 
handwriting and without copyediting of any sort. This 
manuscript was kindly made available from the Hanley 
collection in the University of Texas at Austin. 




THE Six OF CALAIS, 1934 27 




O'FLAHERTY V.C., 1915 123 

THE MUSIC-CURE, 1913 153 






A PA TH through a wood. A fine summer afternoon. 
A lady, good-looking, well dressed, and not over 
thirty y is being conducted along the path by a burly 
and rather dangerous-looking man, middle aged, ugly, 
dressed in a braided coat and mutton fie cap which give 
him the air of being a hotel porter or commissionaire of 
some sort. 

THE LADY [stopping} Where are we now? I should 
hardly call this a short cut. 

THE MAN [truculently] Pm damned if I know. Two 
miles from anywhere. 

THE LADY, But you must know. You are a forest guide. 
THE MAN* Guide my foot! Pm no bloody guide. How 
much money have you got on you? 


THE MAN. Because I mean to have it off you, see? 
Hand over. 

THE LADY. Do you mean to rob me? You said you 
were a guide j and we agreed for seven-and-sixpence. I 
meant to give you ten shillings if you were civil j but now 
1 will give you your seven-and-sixpence and not a penny 
more. If you dare try to rob me PI1 call the police. 

THE MAN. Call away. There isnt a copper within five 
miles. Are them pearls round your neck real? Whether 
or no I mean to have them. You have three pounds in 
notes in your handbag: I saw them when you paid the 
taxi. Are you going to hand over quietly or shall I have to 
take them? It'll hurt a bit* 

A YOUNG MALE VOICE [very affable] Is there anything 
amiss? Can I help? 

The Man and the Lady start violently y not having 
noticed the newcomer until he arrives between them. He 
is a likeable looking juvenile m a workman's cap, but 
otherwise might by his clothes be an artisan off duty or a 
gentleman. His accent is that of a wellbred man. 



THE MAN [ferociously] Who the hell are you? 

THE NEWCOMER. Nobody but a tramp looking for a 

THE MAN. Well, dont you come interfering with me. 
Get out of here, double quick. 

THE NEWCOMER [sunnily] Pm in no hurry. The lady 
might like me to stay. If she wants a witness Pm on the 

THE LADY. Oh yes: please stay. This man is trying to 
rob me. 

THE NEWCOMER. Oh dear! That wont do, you know, 
matey. Thou shalt not steal. 

THE MAN [with exaggerated fierceness} Who are you 
calling matey? Listen here. Are you going to get out or 
have I to sling you out? 

THE NEWCOMER [gaily} You can try* Pm game for a 
scrap. Fists, catch as catch can, up and down wrestling, or 
all three together? Be quick. The mounted police patrol 
will pass at six. Take off your coatj and come on* 

THE MAN [he is an abject coward} Easy, governor, 
easy* I dont want no fighting. All I asked of the lady was 
my money for guiding her. 

THE NEWCOMER [to the Lady} Give it to him and get 
rid of him. 

THE LADY. I never refused to give it to him. Here it is. 
[She gives the Man five shillings]. 

THE MAN [humbly} Thank you, lady. [He hurries 
away, almost running]. 

THE LADY. How brave of you to offer to fight that big 

* THE NEWCOMER. Bluff, dear lady, pure bluff. A bully 
Is not always a coward; but a big coward is almost always 
a, bully. I took his measure j that is all. Where do you 
want to go to? 

THE LADY. To Timbcrtown. I live there. I am Miss 
White of Four Towers: a very famous old house* 1 can 


reward you handsomely for rescuing me when I get home. 

THE NEWCOMER. I know the way. A mile and a half. 
Can you walk it? 

THE LADY. Yes of course. I can walk ten miles. 

THE NEWCOMER. Right O! Follow me. 

They go off together. 


A the gates of a ^retentions country house sur- 
rounded, by a high stone wall and overshadowed 
by heavy elm trees. The wall is broken by four 
sham towers with battlemented tops. 

The Newcomer and the Lady arrive. She of ens her 
bag and takes out a key to unlock the wicket. 

THE LADY. Here we are. This is my house. 

THE NEWCOMER [looking at it] Oh. Is it? 

He is not as much impressed as she expected. She 
Angers the cash Docket in her bag, and is obviously em- 

THE NEWCOMER. You are safe at home now. I must 
hurry into the town to get a night's lodging. Goodnight, 
lady. [He turns to go]. 

THE LADY. O please wait a moment. I hardly know 

THE NEWCOMER. How much to tip me, eh? 

THE LADY. Well, I must reward you. You have done 
me a great service, I promised 

THE NEWCOMER. You did. But rescuing ladies from 
robbers is not my profession: it is only my amusement as 
an amateur. But you can do something for me. You said 
your name was White. Your people are the greatest timber 
merchants and woodmen in the county. Well, Pm a car- 
penter of sorts. Could you get me a job in the timber yard 
at three pound ten a week? I cant live on less. 

THE LADY. Oh, Pm sure I can. My grandfather is 



chairman of the Board. My brother is manager. What is 
your name? Where do you live? 

THE NEWCOMER. My name is Henry Bossborn. I live 
nowhere, or where I can: I have no address, Pll call on 
Thursday at your kitchen door: you can leave word with 
your maid if there is any news for me. Good night. 

THE LADY [very graciously] Au revoir. 

BOSSBORN. Not necessarily. Adieu: remember me. 

He goes decisively. She unlocks the wicket and goes 


THE boardroom of White Sons and Bros. Ltd. In 
the chair old Reginald White, still keen and atten- 
tive) but mostly silent. Jasper White, domineering 
but not quite up to his father** mark, Montgomery Smith, 
counting-house chief, and two clerks who make notes but 
say nothing^ and three or jour members of the Board, silent 
lookers-on. Bossborn, looking quite smart in a clean white 
collar and well brushed suit, is before them, bareheaded. 

OLD REGINALD. Well, Bossborn, you have done a 
plucky service to my granddaughter, Miss Serafina White, 
who holds many shares in this concern. 

BOSSBORN. Oh, nothing, sir. I could have killed the 

OLD REGINALD. The lady says he was twice your size 
and weight. We must find you a job. You want one, dent 

BOSSBORN. I want three pound ten a week, sir. I must 

OLD REGINALD. You are a white collar case, I suppose* 
We shall have to make room for you in the counting house. 

BOSSBORN, No, sir, manual worker, carpenter on the 
wages list* Three pound ten and the usual bonus, same as 
the rest in the carpenters* shop* 


OLD REGINALD. Oh well, if you prefer it: that will be 
easy. [To Jasper] Tell him his duties. 

JASPER [much more distant and peremptory] Youll 
be here at six on Monday morning, and clock in sharp to 
the minute. We dont allow unpunctuality here. The fore- 
man will direct you to a place on the bench, where you will 
be expected to work to work, mind you, not to dawdle 
until eleven, when you can knock off for five minutes for a 
cup of tea. Half an hour off for a meal at one. Work again 
at the bench until four. Overtime wages one and a half. 
Five day week: nothing on Saturdays. A week's notice if 
you are a slacker. Thats all. You can go. 

BOSSBORN. Pm very grateful to you gentlemen for 
offering me this job. But Pm afraid it will not suit me. 
I must take to the road again. 

JASPER. Why? It is what you ask for. 

BOSSBORN. Pm not that sort of man. I cant clock in, 
and work at regular hours at the bench. I cant do what you 
call work at all. It is not in my nature. I must come when 
I like and go when I like and stay away when I like. I get 
up at eight, breakfast at nine, and read the papers until 
ten. Pve never in my life got up at five in the morning. 

JASPER. In short, you are an unemployable walking 
gentleman. You expect to be paid three pound ten a week 
for doing nothing. 

BOSSBORN, Three pound ten and the bonus. Not ex- 
actly for doing nothing. I ask to have the run of the works 
and just loaf round to see if there is anything I can do. 

SMITH. Well, of all the ! Just to snoop round and 
find out all our trade secrets and sell them to the next 
timber yard. 

OLD REGINALD. We have no secrets here. All the 
world is welcome to learn the ways of White Ltd. Straight- 
forward work and first quality. Let those who can copy 
us and welcome. 

SMITH- Yes, sir, we know that. But this young fellow 
can make a living by going from one firm to another, tak- 



ing a job and being sacked as a slacker at a fortnight's 
notice j then going on to the next shop and doing it 

BOSSBORN. I can meet you on that. Take me on for a 
fortnight on my own terms. If at the end of the fortnight 
you find me worth keeping for another week you pay me 
for the whole three weeks j but if you find me no use I 
get no wages at all, nothing but the sack. 

OLD REGINALD. How is that, Mr Smith? 

SMITH. Well, sir, if you want a sleeping partner, this 
is the man for you. That is all I can say. 

OLD REGINALD [rising] We'll try him. Come with me, 
Bossborn: my granddaughter is waiting in my private room 
to hear how you have got on. 

BOSSBORN. Good morning, gentlemen* [He follows 
old Reginald out], 

SMITH. The old man is going dotty. You really ought 
to take over, Mr Jasper. 

JASPER. Let him have his way. We shall soon be rid 
of this rotten 


THE drawingroom of Four Towers, overcrowded 
with massive early Victorian furniture, thick cur- 
tains > small but heavy tables crowded with nicnacs, 
sea shells, stuffed birds in glass cases, carpets and wall paper 
with huge -flower designs, movement obstructed and light 
excluded m every possible way. 

Two years have elapsed since the incident m the wood. 
Bossborn, now a very smart city man, matured and im- 
portant looking^ is being entertained by Serafina* 
BOSSBORN. Twice round the world! 
SERAFWA* Yes, twice. And a winter in Durban. 
BOSSBORN* Why twice? 

SERAFJNA. Once for sightseeing. But life in a pleasure 


ship is so easy and comfortable and careless and social that 
at the end of the trip you just stick to the ship and start 
again for another round-the-world cruise, mostly with the 
same people. Quite a lot of them spend their lives going 
round and round. It costs only about a thousand a yearj 
and everything is done for you. 

BOSSBORN. Then why did you come back here? 

SERAFINA. Homesick. For me there is no place like 
Four Towers. Besides, I had to come back after father's 
death to settle about his will and all that. I shall never 
leave dear Four Towers again. I was born herej and I 
shall die here. 

BOSSBORN. Hmmm! There are better places. 

SERAFINA. Not for me. Nowhere on earth. But never 
mind that now. What about yourself? I hear you have 
made terrible changes in the company, and that you and 
Jasper are on very bad terms. You have pensioned off 
poor old Smith and dismissed four clerks who had been 
with us for sixteen years and never had a word against 

BOSSBORN. Their work is done by a girl with a calculat- 
ing and invoicing typewriter as big as herself. Smith was 
twenty-five years out of date. The waste of labor all over 
the place was frightful. 

SERAFINA. Before I went away Jasper said that either 
you or he would have to go when father retired. We 
Whites like to be masters in our own house. I like to be 
mistress in mine. 

BOssnoRN. Oh, that is all over. Ive trained Jasper in 
my methods, and am now in business oi^my own. 

SERAFINA. Have you set up in opposition to us? 

BOSSBORN, Not at all. Pm still a director and ^share- 
holder. My own business is land agency, dealer in real 
estate, private banking, building, and so on. Anything there 
is money in and that I understand. 

SERAFINA. How wonderful! And only two years ago 
you were a tramp looking for a job. 



BOSSBORN. And you got one for me. What can I do 
for you in return? 

SERAFINA. Well, there is something you could perhaps 
advise me on. My old nurse and housekeeper thinks there 
is something wrong with the drainage herej and the 
gardener thinks that two of the four towers are not quite 
safe. Would you greatly mind if I asked you to have a 
look round and tell me if there is really anything wrong, 
and if so what I ought to do about it? 

BOSSBORN. I need not look round. I have had my eye 
on Four Towers for some timej and I know it inside and 
out. There is no drainage. 

SERAFINA. No drainage! But there must be. 

BOSSBORN. Absolutely none. The sewage has been 
simply soaking into the soil for heaven knows how many 
years. None of the towers are worth repairing. The one 
thing to be done is to blow them up, get rid of that prison 
wall, cut down those trees that shut out the sunlight, and 
knock down this ugly, unhealthy, troublesome, costly 
house. It is not fit to live in. Pll build you a modern house 
with a beautiful view in a better situation. This neighbour- 
hood was fashionable fifty years ago: it is now east end. 
Pll build six prefabricated villas lettable at moderate rents 
to replace your four rotten old towers and bring you in a 
tidy addition to your income. 

SERAFINA [rising in toiling wrath} Mr Bossburn: 
leave my house* 

BOSSBORN. Oh! [rising] Why? 

SERAFINA. I can hardly speak. My house! My house, 
the great house of Timbertown, My beautiful house, built 
by my people and never lived in by anyone else, I was 
born here. And you dare ! ! Go; or I will call rny serv- 
ants to shew you out. And never approach my door again: 
it will be shut in your face. 

BOSSBURN \qitite unmoved] Think it over! Pll call 
again in a, month. [He goes promptly]* 

Serafina rings the bell and strides about the room t 


y then rings again violently three times. Her old 
nurse-housekeeper rushes in y alarmed,. 

NURSE. What's the matter, dearie? 

SERAFINA. If that man calls here again, shut the door 
in his face. Slam it. Set the dog on him if he wont go. 
Tell the maids. 

NURSE. Oh, we couldnt do that. Hes such a gentle- 
man. We'll say you are not at home. 

SERAFINA. Youll obey my orders. Gentleman! Do 
you know what he has done? 

NURSE. No, dearie. It must be something dreadful to 
put you into a state like this. What was it? 

SERAFINA. He said that my house Four Towers! 
is ugly, unhealthy, troublesome, not fit to live in. My 
house! The house I was born in. 

NURSE [unimpressed]. Well, you know, dearie, it is 
troublesome. We cant do without seven housemaids, and 
they are always complaining and wont stay long. There 
are always one or two of them sick. Theres no life in the 
house with all those stairs to drag scuttles of coal up and 
down because there is no proper heating, only the old open 
grates* And the place is so dark with all those trees, and 
nothing to look at but a stone wall. In the kitchen they 
are always wondering why you live here instead of mov- 
ing into a nice new house with every convenience. 

SERAFINA [astounded] So you you! agree with 

NURSE. Oh no, dearie, I could never agree with any- 
one against you. I know you think the world of the old 
house. But you can hardly blame the gentleman for say- 
ing what everybody says. He is such a nice gentleman. 
Think it over, dearie* 



THE lounge in an ultra modern country house dated 
I 95> contrasting strangely with Four Towers. As 
before^ Serafina hostess and Sossborn visitor. 

BOSSBORN. Well, what is the matter today? Why have 
you sent for me? 

SERAFINA. I want to have it out with you about my 
Thursday at-homes. You have stopped coming to them. 

BOSSBORN. Have I? Well, you see, I am full up of 
business all day. I have my own business to attend to all 
the forenoon, and in the afternoon there are Board meet- 
ings of directors and the County Council, and appointments 
of all sorts. Much as I like to turn up at your at-homes for 
the pleasure of seeing you I simply cannot find time for 
society and small talk. 1 am, unfortunately, a very busy 

SERAFINA. How charmingly you pay out that budget 
of lies! A busy man can always find time to do anything 
he really wants to do, and excuses for everything he 

BOSSBORN. That is true. Ive not thought about it. To 
be quite frank, I dislike the society of ladies and gentle- 
men. They bore me. I arn not at home among them. You 
know I am only an upstart tramp. 

SERAFINA. Very clever. But a much bigger lie. I dont 
know where you got your courtly manners and the way 
you speak and carry your London clothes; but I know 
you are a cut above me socially, and look down on us 
poor provincials and tradespeople, 

BOSSBORN. Well, suppose it is so. Let us assume that 
I was brought up as a court page, and was so bored by it 
that I broke loose from it, threw myself on the streets 
penniless just as Kropotkin when he grew out of being Tsar 
Alexander's page, chose an infantry regiment in Siberia 
instead of the Imperial Guards at the top of the tree in 


Petersburg. Such things happen. You may pretend that 
it happened to me. But if so does not this prove that I 
am not a snob? 

SERAFINA. At last you may be telling the truth. But if 
you are not a snob why have you stopped coming to my 
at-homes? Answer me that. 

BOSSBORN. Whats the use of answering if you will not 
believe a word I say? You seem to know the truth, what- 
ever it may be. It is for you to tell it to me. 

SERAFINA, The reason you have stopped coming is 
that you think I want to marry you. 

BOSSBORN. Oh, nonsense! 

SERAFINA. It is not nonsense. Do stop lying. It would 
be a social promotion for me. My old nurse, with her talk 
about your being a very nice gentleman, selected you for 
my husband from the time she first saw you. Everybody 
thinks I ought to get married before I am too old. If you 
came always to my at-homes they would think you are the 
man. That is what you are afraid of. You need not be 
afraid. I have sent for you to tell you that nothing on 
earth could induce me to marry you. So there. You can 
come as often as you like. I have no designs on you. 

BOSSBORN. But have I offended you in any way? Are 
my manners inconsiderate? 

SERAFINA. No. Your manners are perfect. 

BOSSBORN. You just dont like me. Simply natural 
antipathy, eh? 

SERAFINA. Not in the least. I like you and admire you 
more than any man I have ever known* You are a wonder. 

BOSSBORN. Then why? 

SERAFINA. I am afraid of you. 

BOSSBORN* Afraid of Me! ! ! Impossible. How? Why? 
Are you serious? 

SERAFINA. Yes: afraid of you. Everybody is afraid of 

BOSSBORN. Is there any use in saying that you have no 
reason to be afraid of me? 



SERAFINA. Yes I have. I like to be mistress in my 
own house, as I was in Four Towers. 

BOSSBORN. But you would be mistress in my house if 
we married. 

SERAFINA. No one will ever be mistress in any house 
that you are in. Only your slaves and your bedfellow. 

BOSSBORN. This bewilders me. Have I ever forced you 
to do anything you did not want to do? 

SERAFINA. Noj for I always had to do what you wanted 
me to do. I was happy at Four Towers: I loved it: I was 
born there and mistress of it and of myself: it was sacred 
to me. I turned you out of it for daring to say a word 
against it. Where is it now? And where am I? Just where 
you put me: I might as well have been a piece of furniture. 
Here in this house of your choosing and your building I 
have heard my four towers being blown up, bang, bang, 
bang, bang, striking on my heart like an earthquake; and I 
never lifted my finger to stop you as I could have done if I 
had been my own mistress. At the works, where my grand- 
father always had the last word until he died, you camej 
and with Jasper and Smith and all the rest against you, 
you turned the whole place inside out: poor old Smith 
and his clerks had to retire; Jasper had to knuckle under; 
our splendid old craftsmen had to learn new machines or 
be sacked and replaced by American mechanics. 

BOSSBORN. Yes yes yes; but they consented: they were 
willing. I doubled, trebled, quadrupled the product and 
the profit. You could not live in Four Towers now because 
you are so enormously more comfortable and civilized here. 
You can all do far more as you like with the leisure my 
reforms give you than you could before I came. Leisure is 
the only reality of freedom. I coerce nobody: I only point 
out the way. 

SERAFINA. Yes: your way, not our way* 

BOSSBORN. Neither my way nor yours. The way of the 
world. Some people call it God's way. 


SERAFINA. Anyhow I will live my own life, not yours. 
If I marry, my choice will not be a Bossborn. 
BOSSBORN. Is that final? 
SERAFINA. Yes. Friendship only. 
BOSSBORN. So be it. Good day to you. 
He rises and goes out 'promptly, as before. 




THIS in all actuarial probability is my last play and 
the climax of my eminence, such as it is. I thought 
my career as a playwright was finished when Waldo 
Lanchester of the Malvern Marionette Theatre, our chief 
living puppet master, sent me figures of two puppets, Shake- 
spear and myself, with a request that I should supply one 
of my famous dramas for them, not to last longer than ten 
minutes or thereabouts. I accomplished this feat, and was 
gratified by Mr Lanchester's immediate approval. 

I have learnt part of my craft as conductor of rehearsals 
(producer, they call it) from puppets. Their unvarying in- 
tensity of facial expression, impossible for living actors, 
keeps the imagination of the spectators continuously stimu- 
lated. When one of them is speaking or tumbling and the 
rest left aside, these, though in full view, are invisible, as 
they should be. Living actors have to learn that they too 
must be invisible while the protagonists are conversing, and 
therefore must not move a muscle nor change their expres- 
sion, instead of, as beginners mostly do, playing to them and 
robbing them of the audience's undivided attention. 

Puppets have also a fascination of their own, because 
there is nothing wonderful in a living actor moving and 
speaking, but that wooden headed dolls should do so is a 
marvel that never palls. 

And they can survive treatment that would kill live 
actors. When I first saw them in my boyhood nothing de- 
lighted me more than when all the puppets went up in a 
balloon and presently dropped from the skies with an ap- 
palling crash on the floor. 

Nowadays the development of stagecraft into filmcraft 
may destroy the idiosyncratic puppet charm. Televised pup- 
pets could enjoy the scenic backgrounds of the cinema. 
Sound recording could enable the puppet master to give 
all his attention to the strings he is manipulating, the dia- 
logue being spoken by a company of first-rate speakers as 
in the theatre. The old puppet master spoke all the parts 
himself in accents which he differentiated by Punch-and- 
Judy squeaks and the like, I can imagine the puppets simu- 



lating living performers so perfectly that the spectators 
will be completely illuded. The result would be the death 
of puppetry j for it would lose its charm with its magic. So 
let reformers beware. 

Nothing can extinguish my interest in Shafcespear. It 
began when I was a small boy, and extends to Stratford- 
upon-Avon, where I have attended so many bardic festi- 
vals that I have come to regard it almost as a supplementary 
birthplace of my own. 

No year passes without the arrival of a batch of books 
contending that Shakespear was somebody else. The argu- 
ment is always the same. Such early works as Venus and 
Adonis, Lucrece, and Love's Labour's Lost, could not possi- 
bly have been written by an illiterate clown and poacher 
who could hardly write his own name. This is unquestion- 
ably true. But the inference that Shakespear did not write 
them does not follow* What does follow is that Shake- 
spear was not an illiterate clown but a well read grammar- 
schooled son in a family o good middle-class standing, 
cultured enough to be habitual playgoers and private enter- 
tainers of the players. 

This, on investigation, proves to be exactly what Shafce- 
spear was. His father, John Shakespear, Gent, was an alder- 
man who demanded a coat of arms which was finally 
granted. His mother was of equal rank and social preten- 
sion. John finally failed commercially, having no doubt let 
his artistic turn get the better of his mercantile occupation, 
and leave him unable to afford a university education for 
William, had he ever wanted to make a professional scholar 
of him. 

These circumstances interest me because they are just 
like my own. They were a considerable cut above those of 
Bunyan and Cobbett, both great masters of language, who 
nevertheless could not have written Venus and Adonis nor 
Love's Labour's Lost. One does not forget Banyan's "The 
Latin I borrow." Shakespear's standing was nearer to 
Ruskin's, whose splendid style owes much more to his moth- 
er's insistence on his learning the Bible by heart than to his 
Oxford degree- 


So much for Bacon-Shakespear and all the other fables 
founded on that entirely fictitious figure Shaxper or Shag- 
sper the illiterate bumpkin. 

Enough too for my feeling that the real Shakespear 
might have been myself, and for the shallow mistaking of it 
for mere professional jealousy. 

Ayot Saint Lawrence, 



SHA KES enters and salutes the audience with & flour- 
ish of his hat. 
SHAKES. Now is the winter of our discontent 

Made glorious summer by the Malvern sun. 

I, William Shakes, was born in Stratford town, 

Where every year a festival is held 

To honour my renown not for an age 

But for all time. Hither I raging come 

An infamous impostor to chastize, 

Who in an ecstasy of self-conceit 

Shortens my name to Shav, and dares pretend 

Here to reincarnate my very self, 

And in your stately playhouse to set up 

A festival, and plant a mulberry 

In most presumptuous mockery of mine. 

Tell me, ye citizens of Malvern, 

Where I may find this caitiff. Face to face 

Set but this fiend of Ireland and myself; 

And leave the rest to me. [Shav enters]. Who art thou? 

That rearst a forehead almost rivalling mine? 
SHAV. Nay, who art thou, that knowest not these features 

Pictured throughout the globe? Who should I be 

ButG. B.S.? 
SHAKES. What! Stand, thou shameless fraud. 

For one or both of us the hour is come. 

Put up your hands. 
SHAV. Come on. 

They spar. Shakes knocks Shav down with a straight 

left and begins counting him out, stooping over him and 

beating the seconds with his finger. 

SHAKES. Hackerty-backerty one, Hackerty-backerty two, 
Hackerty-backerty three . . * Hackerty-backerty 
n } nc 

At the count of nine Shav springs up and knocks Shakes 
down with a right to the chin. 

SHAV [counting] Hackerty-bacfcerty one, . . Hackerty- 
backerty ten. Out. 

SHAKES. Out! And by thee! Never* [He rises]. Younger 
you are 



By full three hundred years, and therefore carry 

A heavier punch than mine ; but what of that? 

Death will soon finish you j but as for me, 

Not marble nor the gilded monuments 

Of princes 
SHAV. shall outlive your powerful rhymes. 

So you have told us: I have read your sonnets, 
SHAKES. Couldst write Macbeth? 
SHAV. No need. He has been bettered 

By Walter Scott's Rob Roy. Behold, and blush. 

Rob Roy and Macbeth appear y Rob in Highland tar- 
tan and kilt with claymore^ Macbeth in kingly costume. 
MACBETH. Thus far into the bowels of the land 

Have we marched on without impediment* 

Shall I still call you Campbell? 
ROB \in a strong Scotch accent} Caumill me no Caumills* 

Ma fet is on ma native heath: ma name's Macgregor. 
MACBETH. I have no words. My voice is in my sword. Lay 
on, Rob Royj 

And damned be he that proves the smaller boy. 

He draws and stands on guard. Rob draws; spins round 

several times like a man throwing a hammer $ and finally 

cuts off Macbeth 9 s head at one stroke, 
ROB, Whaur's your Wullie Shaxper the noo? 

Bagpipe and drum music, to which Rob dances off* 
MACBETH [headless] I will return to Stratford: the hotels 

Are cheaper there. [He picks up Ms head> and goes off 
with it under his arm to the tune of British Grena- 
SHAKES. Call you this cateran 

Better than my Macbeth, one line from whom 

Is worth a thousand of your piffling plays. 
SHAV. Quote one. Just one. I challenge thee. One line. 
SHAKES. "The shardborne beetle with his drowsy hum. n 
SHAV, Hast never heard of Adam Lindsay Gordon? 
SHAKES. A name that sings. What of him? 
SHAV. He eclipsed 

Thy shardborne beetle* Hear his mighty lines. 



"The beetle booms adown the glooms 
And bumps among the clumps." 
SHAKES [roaring with laughter} Ha ha! Ho ho! My lungs 

like chanticleer 

Must crow their fill. This fellow hath an ear. 
How does it run? "The beetle booms 
SHAV, Adown the glooms 
SHAKES. And bumps 
SHAV. Among the clumps." Well done, Australia! 

Shav laughs. 

SHAKES. Laughest thou at thyself? Pullst thou my leg? 
SHAV. There is more fun in heaven and earth, sweet Wil- 

Than is dreamt of in your philosophy. 
SHAKES. Where is thy Hamlet? Couldst thou write King 


SHAV. Aye, with his daughters all complete, Couldst thou 
Have written Heartbreak House? Behold my Lear. 

A transparency is suddenly lit up > shewing Captain 
Shotover seated, as in Millais* picture called North-West 
Passage , with a young woman of virginal beauty. 
SHOTOVER [raising his hand and intoning} I builded a house 

for my daughters and opened the doors thereof 
That men might come for their choosing, and their betters 

spring from their lovej 
But one of them married a numskull: the other a liar 

And now she must lie beside him even as she made her 


THE VIRGIN. "Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy 
house, this agonizing house, this house without founda- 
tions. I shall call it Heartbreak House." 
SHOTOVER* Enough. Enough. Let the heart break in silence. 

The picture vanishes. 

SHAKES. You stole that word from me: did I not write 
"The heartache and the thousand natural woes 
That flesh is heir to"? 

SHAV. You were not the first 

To sing of broken hearts. I was the first 

That taught your faithless Timons how to mend them. 

SHAKES. Taught what you could not know. Sing if you can 
My cloud capped towers, my gorgeous palaces, 
My solemn temples. The great globe itself, 
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve 

SHAV. and like this foolish little show of ours 

Leave not a wrack behind. So you have said. 
I say the world will long outlast our day. 
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow 
We puppets shall replay our scene. Meanwhile, 
Immortal William dead and turned to clay 
May stop a hole to keep the wind away. 
Oh that that earth which kept the world in awe 
Should patch a wall t* expel the winter's flaw! 

SHAKES. These words are mine, not thine, 

SHAV. Peace, jealous Bard. 

We both are mortal. For a moment suffer 
My glimmering light to shine. 
A light appears between them. 

SHAKES. Out, out, brief candle! [He puffs it out]* 
Darkness. The play ends. 



The Six of Calais was performed for the first time In 
Mr. Sydney Carroll's Open Air Theatre , in Regent's Park, 
London y on the ijth July 1934, with Phyllis Neilson 
Terry y Charles Carson, Leonard Shepherd, and Vincent 
Sternroyd in the four principal parts. 


THE most amusing thing about the first perform- 
ance of this little play was the exposure it elicited 
of the quaint illiteracy of our modern London 
journalists. Their only notion of a king was a pleasant and 
highly respectable gentleman in a bowler hat and Victorian 
beard, shaking hands affably with a blushing football team. 
To them a queen was a dignified lady, also Victorian as to 
her coiffure, graciously receiving bouquets from excessively 
washed children in beautiful new clothes. Such were their 
mental pictures of Great Edward's grandson and his queen 
Philippa. They were hurt, shocked, scandalized at the 
spectacle of a medieval soldier-monarch publicly raging 
and cursing, crying and laughing, asserting his authority 
with thrasonic ferocity and the next moment blubbering 
like a child in his wife's lap or snarling like a savage dog 
at a dauntless and defiant tradesman: in short, behaving 
himself like an unrestrained human being in a very trying 
situation instead of like a modern constitutional monarch 
on parade keeping up an elaborate fiction of living in a po- 
litical vacuum and moving only when his ministers pull 
his strings. Edward Plantagenet the Third had to pull 
everybody else's strings and pull them pretty hard, his 
father having been miserably killed for taking his job 
too lightly. But the journalist critics knew nothing of 
this. A King Edward who did not behave like the son 
of King Edward the Seventh seemed unnatural and in- 
decent to them, and they rent their garments accordingly. 
They were perhaps puzzled by the fact that the play 
has no moral whatever. Every year or so I hurl at them a 
long play full of insidious propaganda, with a moral in 
every line. They never discover what I am driving at: it is 
always too plainly and domestically stated to be grasped 
by their subtle and far flung minds; but they feel that I 
am driving at something: probably something they had 
better not agree with if they value their livelihoods. A 
play of mine in which I am not driving at anything more 



than a playwright's direct business is as inconceivable by 
them as a medieval king. 

Now a playwright's direct business is simply to pro- 
vide the theatre with a play. When I write one with 
the additional attraction of providing the twentieth cen- 
tury with an up-to-date religion or the like, that luxury 
is thrown in gratuitously j and the play, simply as a play, 
is not necessarily either the better or the worse for it. 
What, then, is a play simply as a play? 

Well, it is a lot of things. Life as we see it is so hap- 
hazard that it is only by picking out its key situations and 
arranging them in their significant order (which is never 
how they actually occur) that it can be made intelligible. 
The highbrowed dramatic poet wants to make it intelligible 
and sublime. The farce writer wants to make it funny. The 
melodrama merchant wants to make it as exciting as some 
people find the police news. The pornographer wants to 
make it salacious. All interpreters of life in action, noble 
or ignoble, find their instrument in the theatre; and all 
the academic definitions of a play are variations of this 
basic function. 

Yet there is one function hardly ever alluded to now, 
though it was made much too much of from Shakespear's 
time to the middle of the nineteenth century. As I write 
my plays it is continually in my mind and very much to 
my taste. This function is to provide an exhibition of the 
art of acting. A good play with bad parts is not an im- 
possibility; but it is a monstrosity. A bad play with good 
parts will hold the stage and be kept alive by the actors 
for centuries after the obsolescence of its mentality would 
have condemned it to death without them. A great deal 
of the British Drama, from Shakespear to Bulwer Lytton, 
is as dead as mutton, and quite unbearable except when 
heroically acted j yet Othello and Richelieu can still draw 
hard money into the pay boxes j and The School For 
Scandal revives again and again with unabated vigor. 
Rosalind can always pull As You Like It through in spite 


of the sententious futility of the melancholy Jaques; and 
Millamant, impossible as she is, still produces the usual 
compliments to the wit and style of Congreve, who thought 
that syphilis and cuckoldry and concupiscent old women 
are things to be laughed at. 

The Six of Calais is an acting piece and nothing else. 
As it happened, it was so well acted that in the eighteenth 
century all the talk would have been about Siddons as 
Philippa. But the company got no thanks except from the 
audience: the critics were prostrated with shock, damn 
their eyes! 

I have had to improve considerably on the story as 
told by that absurd old snob Froissart, who believed that 
"to rob and pill was a good life" if the robber was at least 
a baron. He made a very poor job of it in my opinion. 

2 8th May 


A.D. 4th August 1347. Before the walls of Calais on the 
last day of the siege. The pavilion of Edward III y King 
of England, is on your left as you face the walls. The 
pavilion of his consort Philippa of Hainault is on your 
right. Between them> near the King's pavilion, is a two- 
seated chair of state for public audiences. Crowds of tents 
cover the background; but there is a clear way in the mid- 
dle through the camp to the great gate of the city with its 
drawbridge still u$ and its flag stHl flying. 

The Black Prince , aged 17, arrives impetuously past 
the Queetfs tent, a groom running after him. 

THE PRINCE. Here is the King's pavilion without a 
single attendant to announce me. What can the matter be? 

A child's scream is heard from the royal pavilion; 
and John of Gaunt> aged 7, dashes out and is making 
for his mother's tent when the Prince seizes him. 

THE PRINCE. How now, Johnny? Whats the matter? 

JOHN [struggling] Let me go. Father is in a frightful 

THE PRINCE. I shall be in a wax myself presently. [Re- 
leasing him] OS with you to mother. [The child takes 
refuge in the Queen* s pavilion]. 

THE KING'S VOICE* Grrr! Yah! Why was I not told? 
Gogswoons, why was I not told? [Edward ///, aged 35, 
dashes from his pavilion, foaming]. Out! [The groom 
flies for his life}. How long have you been here? They 
never tell me anything. I might be a dog instead of a 

THE PRINCE [about to kneel} Majesty 

THE KING. No no: enough of that. Your news. Any- 
thing from Scotland? Anything from Wales? 


THE KING {not waiting for the answer] The state of 
things here is past words. The wrath of God and all his 
saints is upon this expedition. 

THE PRINCE* I hope not, sir. I 


THE KING [raging on] May God wither and blast 
this accursed town! You would have thought that these 
dogs would have come out of their kennels and grovelled 
for mercy at my summons. Am I not their lawful king, ha? 

THE PRINCE. Undoubtedly, sir. They 

THE KING. They have held me up for twelve months! 
A whole year!! My business ruined! My plans upset! My 
money exhausted! Death, disease, mutiny, a dog's life 
here in the field winter and summer. The bitch's bastard 
who is in command of their walls came to demand terms 
from me! to demand terms! ! ! looked me straight in the 
eyes with his head up as if I I, his king! were dirt be- 
neath his feet. By God, I will have that head: I will kick 
it to my dogs to eat. I will chop his insolent herald into 
four quarters 

THE PRINCE [shocked] Oh no, sir: not a herald: you 
cannot do that. 

THE KING. They have driven me to such extremity 
that I am capable of cutting all the heralds in Christen- 
dom into their quarterings. [He sits down in his chair 
of state and suddenly becomes ridiculously sentimental}. 
I have not told you the worst. Your mother, the Queen, 
my Philippa, is here: here! Edward, in her delicate state 
of health. Even that did not move them. They want her 
to die: they are trying to murder her and our innocent 
unborn child. Think of that, boy: oh, think of that [he 
almost weeps]. 

THE PRINCE. Softly, father: that is not their fault: it 
is yours. 

THE KING. Would you make a jest of this? If it is not 
their fault it shall be their misfortune; for I will have 
every man, woman, and child torn to pieces with red hot 
pincers for it. 

THE PRINCE* Truly, dear Sir, you have great cause 
to be annoyed; but in sober earnest how does the matter 
stand? They must be suffering the last extremity of famine. 
Their walls may hold out; but their stomachs cannot. 



Cannot you offer them some sort of terms to end the 
business? Money is running short. Time is running short. 
You only make them more desperate by threatening them. 
Remember: it is good policy to build a bridge of silver for 
a flying foe. 

THE KING. Do I not know it? Have I not been kind, 
magnanimous? Have I not done all that Christian chivalry 
could require of me? And they abuse my kindness: it 
only encourages them: they despise me for it. 

THE PRINCE. What terms have you offered them? 

THE KING. I have not threatened the life of a single 
knight. I have said that no man of gentle condition and 
noble blood shall be denied quarter and ransom. It was 
their knightly duty to make a show of arms against me. 
But [rising wrathfally] these base rascals of burgesses: 
these huckstering hounds of merchants who have made 
this port of Calais a nest of pirates: these usurers and 
tradesmen: these rebel curs who have dared to take up 
arms against their betters: am I to pardon their presump- 
tion? I should be false to our order, to Christendom, if I 
did not make a signal example. 

THE PRINCE. By all means, sir. But what have you 

THE KING- Six of the most purseproud of their 
burgesses, as they call themselves by God, they begin 
to give themselves the airs of barons six of them are to 
come in their shirts with halters round their necks for me 
to hang in the sight of all their people. [Raising Ms voice 
again and storming] They shall die the dog's death they 
deserve. They shall 

A court lady comes in. 

THE COURT LADY. Sir: the Queen. Sssh! 

THE KING [subsiding to a whisper} The Queen! Boy: 
not a word here. Her condition: she must not be upset: 
she takes these things so amiss: be discreet, for heaven's 


Queen Philippa, aged 33, comes from her pavilion, 

THE QUEEN. Dear child: welcome. 

THE PRINCE. How do you, lady mother? [He kisses 
her hand} . 

THE KING [solicitously] Madam: are you well 
wrapped up? Is it wise to come into the cold air here? Had 
they better not bring a brazier and some cushions, and a 
hot drink a posset 

THE QUEEN [curtseying] Sir: beloved: dont fuss. I 
am very wellj and the air does me good. [To the Prince] 
You must cheer up your father, my precious. He will 
fret about my health when it is his own that needs care. 
I have borne him eleven children; and St Anne be my 
witness they have cost less looking after than this one 
big soldier, the greatest baby of them all. [ To the King] 
Have you put on your flannel belly band, dearest? 

THE KING. Yes, yes, yes, my love: do not bother about 
me. Think of yourself and our child 

THE QUEEN. Oh, leave me to take care of myself and 
the child. I am no maternal malingreuse I promise you. 
And now, sir sonny, tell me all your news. I 

She is interrupted by a shrill trumpet call. 

THE KING. What is that? What now? 

John of Gaun^ who has been up to the town gates to 
see the fan, runs in excitedly. 

JOHN OF GAUNT [bending his knee very yerfanctorily] 
Sire: they have surrendered: the drawbridge is down. The 
six old men have come out in their shirts with ropes round 
their necks. 

THE KING \clouting hvm\ Sssh! Hold your tongue, 
you young devil. 

THE QUEEN. Old men in their shirts in this weather! ! 
They will catch cold. 

THE KING. It is nothing, madam my love: only the 
ceremony of surrender. You must go in: it is not fitting 



that these half naked men should be in your presence. I 
will deal with them. 

THE QUEEN. Do not keep them too long in the cold, 
dearest sir. 

THE KING [uxoriously waving her a kiss] My love! 

The Queen goes into her pavilion; and a group of 
noblemen attendant on the King, including Sir Walter 
Manny and the Lords Derby , Northampton^ and Arundel y 
issue from their tents and assemble behind the chair of 
state y where they are joined by the Black Prince^ who 
stands at the Kings right hand and takes charge of John 
of Gaunt. 

THE KING, Now for these swine, these bloodsuckers. 
They shall learn [shouting ] Fetch me these fellows in 
here. Drag them in, Pll teach them to hold me up here 
for twelve months. Pll 

The six burgesses, hustled by men-at-arms > enter in 
their shirts and halters , each carrying a bunch of massive 
iron keys. Their leader, Eustache de St Pierre, kneels at 
the King's feet. Four of his fellow victims^ Piers de Wis- 
sant, Jacques de Wissant, Jean d?Aire, and Gilles 
d'Oudebolle, kneel in fairs behind him> and> following 
his example, lay their keys on the ground. They are deeply 
cast down, bearing themselves like condemned men> yet 
maintaining a melancholy dignity* Not so the sixth> Piers 
de Rosty (nicknamed Hardmouth) y the only one without 
a grey or white beard. He has an extraordinarily dogged 
chin with a few bristles on it. He deliberately separates 
himself from the rest by passing behind the royal chair to 
the King's right and planting himself stiffly erect in an at- 
titude of intense recalcitrance. The King, scowling fiercely 
at St Pierre and the rest> does not notice this until Peter 
flings down his keys with a violence which suggests that he 
would very willingly have brained Edward with them. 

THE ICING. On your knees, hound. 

PETER. I am a good dog, but not of your kennel, 


THE KING. Neddy! ! ! ! 

PETER. Order your own curs: I am a free burgess and 
take commands from nobody. 

Before the amazed monarch can retort^ Eustache ap- 
peals to Peter. 

EUSTACHE. Master Peter: if you have no regard for 
yourself, remember that our people, our wives and chil- 
dren, are at the mercy of this great king. 

PETER. You mistake him for his grandfather. Great! 
[He spits]. 

EUSTACHE. Is this your promise to be patient? 

PETER. Why waste civilities on him, Master Mayor? 
He can do no worse than hang us; and as to the town, 7 
would have burnt it to the last brick, and every man, 
woman and child along with it, sooner than surrender. I 
came here to make up the tale of six to be hanged. Well, 
he can hang mej but he shall not outface me. I am as 
good a dog as he, any day in the week. 

THE PRINCE. Fie, fellow! is this a way for one of thy 
degree to speak to an anointed king? Bear thyself as be* 
fits one of thy degree in the royal presence, or by Holy 

PETER. You know how we have borne ourselves in his 
royal presence these twelve months. We have made some 
of you skip. Famine and not you, has beaten us. Give me 
a square meal and a good sword and stake all on a fair 
single combat with this big bully, or his black whelp here 
if he is afraid of me; and we shall see which is the better 
dog of the two. 

THE KING. Drag him to his knees. Hamstring him if 
he resists. 

Three men-at-arms dash at Peter and drag him to his 
knees. They take his halter and tie his ankles and wrists 
with it. Then they fling him on his side, where he lies 

THE KING, And so, Master Burgess 




THE KING [farious] Gag him. Gogswoons, gag him. 

They tear a $iece of linen from the back of his shirt^ 
and bind his mouth with it. He barks to the last moment. 
John of Gaunt laughs ecstatically at this performance, and 
sets off some of the soldiers. 

THE KING. If a man laughs I will have him flayed 

Dead silence. 

THE KING. And now, fellows, what have ye to say to 
excuse your hardy and stubborn resistance for all these 
months to me, your king? 

EUSTACHE. Sir, we are not fellows. We are free bur- 
gesses of this great city. 

THE KING. Free burgesses! Are you still singing that 
song? Well, I will bend the necks of your burgesses when 
the hangman has broken yours. Am I not your overlord? 
Am I not your anointed king? 

EUSTACHE. That is your claim, sir; and you have made 
it good by force of arms. We must submit to you and to 

THE KING. Leave God out of this! What hast thou or 
thy like to do with God? 

EUSTACHE* Nothing, sir: we would not so far presume. 
But with due respect to your greatness I would humbly 
submit to your Majesty that God may have something to 
do with us, seeing that he created us all alike and re- 
deemed us by the blood of his beloved son. 

THE KING [to the Prince] Can you make head or tail 
of this, boy? Is he accusing me of impiety? If he is, by 

EUSTACHE. Sir, is it for me to accuse you of anything? 
Here we kneel in the dust before you, naked and with the 
ropes on our necks with which you will presently send us 
into the presence of our maker and yours* [His teeth 
chatter \. 

THE KING. Ay: you may well tremble. You have 

EUSTACHE. Yes: I tremble; and my teeth chatter: the 


few I have left. But you gentlemen that see our miserable 
plight, I call on your generosity as noblemen, on your 
chivalry as good knights, to bear witness for us that it is 
the cold of the morning and our naked condition that 
shakes us. We kneel to implore your King's mercy for our 
wretched and starving townsfolk, not for ourselves. 

THE KING. Whose fault is it that they are starving? 
They have themselves to thank. Why did they not open 
their gates to me? Why did they take arms against their 
anointed king? Why should I have mercy on them or on 

EUSTACHE. Sir: one is merciful not for reasons, but for 
the love of God, at whose hand we must all sue for mercy 
at the end of our days. 

THE KING. You shall not save yourself by preaching. 
What right have you to preach? It is for churchmen and 
learned divines to speak of these mysteries, not for trades- 
men and usurers. I'll teach you to rebel against your bet- 
ters, whom God has appointed to keep you in obedience 
and loyalty. You are traitors 5 and as traitors you shall die. 
Thank my mercy that you are spared the torments that 
traitors and rebels suffer in England. [Rising] Away with 
them to the hangman $ and let our trumpeters summon 
the townspeople to the walls to take warning from their 
dangling corpses. 

The three men-at-arms begin to lift Peter. The others 
lay hands on his five colleagues. 

THE KING. No: let that hound lie. Hanging is too good 
for him. 

The Queen hurries in with her ladies in great concern. 
The men-at-arms release the burgesses irresolutely. It is 
evident that the Queen* s arrival washes out all the King's 

THE QUEEN. Sir, what is this they tell me? 

THE KING \hurrying across to intercept her} Madam: 
this is no place for you. I pray you, retire. The business is 
one in which it becomes you not to meddle. 

THE QUEEN {evading him and passing on to inspect the 



burgesses] But these gentlemen. They are almost naked. 
It is neither seemly nor sufficient. They are old: they are 
half frozen: they should be in their beds. 

THE KING. They soon will be. Leave us, madam. This 
is business of State. They are suffering no more than they 
deserve. I beg and pray you I command you 

THE QUEEN. Dear sir, your wishes are my law and 
your commands my duty. But these gentlemen are very 

THE KING. They will be colder presently j so you need 
not trouble about that. Will it please you, madam, to with- 
draw at once? 

THE QUEEN. Instantly, my dear lord. \To Eustache] 
Sir: when his Majesty has ended his business with you, 
will you and your friends partake of some cups of hot 
wine in my pavilion? You shall be furnished with gowns. 

THE KING [choking with wrath] Hot w ! 

EUSTACHE. Alas, madam, when the King has ended 
his business with us we shall need nothing but our coffins. 
I also beg you to withdraw and hasten our despatch to 
that court where we shall not be held guilty for defending 
our hearths and homes to the last extremity. The King will 
not be baulked of his revenge; and we are shriven and 

THE QUEEN, Oh, you mistake, sir: the King is incapa- 
ble of revenge: my husband is the flower of chivalry. 

EUSTACHE. You little know your husband, madam. 
We know better what to expect from Edward Plantagenet. 

THE KING [coming to him threateningly *pa$t his con- 
sort] Ha! do you, Master Merchant? You know better 
than the Queen! You and your like know what to expect 
from your lords and rulers! Well, this time you shall not 
be disappointed. You have guessed aright. You shall hang, 
every man of you, in your shirts, to make mirth for my 
horseboys and their trulls, 


THE KING [thundering] Madam: I forbid you to speak. 


I bade you go: you would not; and now you shall see what 
I would have spared you had you been obedient. By God, 
I will be master in my own house and king in my own 
camp. Take these fellows out and hang them in their white 

The King takes his ylace on Ms chair of state with his 
arms folded implacably. The Queen follows him slowly 
and desolately. She takes her $lace beside him. The dead 
silence is very trying. 

THE QUEEN [drooling in tears and covering her jace 
with her hands} Oh! 

THE KING [flinching} No no no no NO. Take her 

THE QUEEN. Sir: I have been always a great trouble 
to you. I have asked you for a thousand favors and graces 
and presents* I am impatient and ungrateful, ever ask- 
ing, asking, asking. Have you ever refused me even once? 

THE KING. Well, is that a reason why I should give 
and grant, grant and give, for ever? Am I never to have 
my own way? 

THE QUEEN. Oh, dearest sir, when next I ask you for 
a great thing, refuse me: teach me a lesson. But this is such 
a little thing. [Heartbroken} I cannot bear your refusing 
me a little thing. 

THE KING. A little thing! You call this a little thing! 

THE QUEEN. A very very little thing, sir. You are the 
King: you have at your disposal thousands of lives: all our 
lives from the noblest to the meanest. All the lives in that 
city are in your hand to do as you will with in this your 
hour of victory: it is as if you were God himself. You said 
once that you would lead ten kings captive to my feet. 
Much as I have begged from you I have never asked for 
my ten kings. I ask only for six old merchants, men be- 
neath your royal notice, as my share of the spoils of your 
conquest. Their ransom will hardly buy me a new girdle j 
and oh, dear sir, you know that my old one is becoming 
too strait for me- Will you keep me begging so? 



THE KING. I see very well that I shall not be allowed 
my own way. [He begins to cry], 

THE QUEEN [throwing her arms round him} Oh, dear 
sir, you know I would die to spare you a moment's dis- 
tress. There, there, dearest! [She pets him}. 

THE KING [blubbering} I am never allowed to do any- 
thing I want. I might as well be a dog as a king. You treat 
me like a baby. 

THE QUEEN. Ah no: you are the greatest of kings to 
me, the noblest of men, my dearest lord and my dearest 
dearest love. [Throwing herself on her knees} Listen: do 
as you will: I will not say another word: I ask nothing* 

THE KING. No: you ask nothing because you know you 
will get everything. [He rises, shouting} Take those men 
out of my sight. 

THE PRINCE. What shall we do with them, sir? 

THE KING [flinging himself back into his seat} Ask the 
Queen. Banquet them: feast them: give them my crown, 
my kingdom. Give them the clothes off my back, the bread 
out of my mouth, only take them away. Will you go, 
curses on you. 

The five burgesses kneel gratefully to the Queen, 

EUSTACHE [kissing her hand} Madam: our ransom 
shall buy you a threefold girdle of gold and a cradle of 

THE KING. Aye, well, see that it does: see that it docs. 

The burgesses retire, bowing to the Queen, who, still 
on her knees > waves her hand graciously to them. 

THE QUEEN. Will you not help me up, dear sir? 

THE KING. Oh yes, yes \raising her}: you should be 
more careful: who knows what harm you may have done 
yourself flopping on your knees like that? 

THE QUEEN. I have done myself no harm, dear sir; 
but you have done me a world of good. I have never been 
better nor happier in my life. Look at me. Do I not look 

THE KING. And how do I look? Like a fool. 


JOHN OF GAUNT. Sir: the men-at-arms want to know 
what they are to do with this fellow? 

THE KING. Aye, I forgot him. Fetch him here. 

The three men-at-arms carry Peter to the King y and 
fling Mm down. The King is now grinning. His paroxysm 
of tears has completely discharged his ill temper. It dawns 
on him that through Peter he may get even with Philippa 
for his recent domestic defeat. 

THE QUEEN. Oh, the poor man has not even a proper 
shirt to wear. It is all torn: it is hardly decent. 

THE KING. Look well at this man, madam. He defied 
me. He spat at me. There is no insult that he did not heap 
on me. He looked me in the face and spoke to me as if I 
were a scullion. I swear to you by the Holy Rood, he 
called me Neddy! Donkeys are called Neddy. What 
have you to say now? Is he, too, to be spared and petted 
and fed and have a gown from you? 

THE QUEEN [going to Peter] But he is blue with cold. 
I fear he is dying. Untie him. Lift him up. Take that 
bandage off his mouth. Fie fie! I believe it is the tail of his 

THE KING, It is cleaner than his tongue. 

The men-at-arms release Peter "from his bonds and 
his gag. He is too stiff to rise. They full him to his feet. 

PETER [as they lift him groaning and swearing] Ah~ 

THE KING. Well? Have you learnt your lesson? Are 
you ready to sue for the Queen's mercy? 

PETER. Yah! Henpecked! Kiss mammy! 

THE KING [chuckles]] \ 

THE QUEEN [severely] Are you mad, Master Burgess? 
Do you not know that your life is in the King's hand? Do 
you expect me to recommend you to his mercy if you for- 
get yourself in this unseemly fashion? 

PETER. Let me tell you, madam, that I came here in 
no ragged shirt. I have a dozen shirts of as fine a web as 
ever went on your back* Is it likely that I, a master mercer, 



would wear aught but the best of the best to go to my 
grave in? 

THE QUEEN. Mend your manners first, sir; and then 
mend your linen j or you shall have no countenance from 

PETER. I have naught to do with you, madam, though 
I well see who wears the breeches in this royal household. 
I am not skilled in dealing with fine handsome ladies. 
Leave me to settle my business with your henpecked hus- 

THE QUEEN. You shall suffer for this insolence. [To 
the King] Will you, my lord, stand by and hear me 
spoken to in this tone by a haberdasher? 

THE KING \grinning] Nay: I am in a merciful mood 
this morning. The poor man is to be pitied, shivering there 
in his shirt with his tail torn off. 

PETER. Shivering! You lie in your teeth, though you 
were fifty kings. No man alive shall pity Peter Hard- 
mouth, a dog of lousy Champagne. 

THE KINO \going to him] Ha! A dog of Champagne! 
Oh, you must pardon this man, madam 9 for my grand- 
mother hailed from that lousy province; so I also am a 
dog of Champagne. We know one another's bark, [ Turn- 
ing on him wxth bristling teeth\ Eh? 

PETER I growling in his face like a dog] Grrrr! ! ! 

THE KING [returning the growl chin to chin] 
Grrrr! 1 1 III 

They repeat this performance, to the great scandal of 
the Queen, until it develops into a startling imitation of a 

dog fight- 

THE QUEEN [tearing the two dogs asunder} Oh, for 
shame, sir! And you, fellow: I will have you muzzled and 
led through the streets on a chain and lodged in a kennel. 

THE KINO. Be merciful, lady. I have asked you for 
many favors, and had them granted me too, as the world, 
please God, will soon have proof. Will you deny me this? 

THE QUEEN* Will you mock my condition before this 

insolent man and before the world? I will not endure it. 

THE KING. Faith, no, dearest: no mockery. But you 
have no skill in dealing with the dogs of lousy Cham- 
pagne. We must pity this poor trembling fellow. 

THE QUEEN [angrily] He is not trembling. 

PETER. No, by all the saints in heaven and devils in 
hell. Well said, lass. 

He nudges her, to her extreme indignation. 

THE KING. Hear that, dearest: he calls thee lass. Be 
kind to him. He is only a poor old cur who has lost half 
his teeth. His condition would move a heart of stone. 

PETER. I may be an old curj but if I had sworn to 
hang the six of us as he swore, no shrew should scold me 
out of it, nor any softbosomed beauty wheedle me out of 
it. Yah, cry baby! Give her your sword and sit in the 
corner with her distaff. The grey mare is the better horse 
here. Do your worst, dame: I like your spunk better than 
his snivel. 

THE QUEEN [raging] Send him away, sir. He is too 
uglyj and his words are disgusting. Such objects should 
be kept out of my sight: would you have me bear you a 
monster? Take him away. 

THE KING. Away with him. Hurt him not 5 but let 
him not come into the Queers presence. Quick there. Off 
with him* 

The men-at-arms lay hands on Peter who struggles 

PETER, Hands off me, spaniels. Arrr! Grrr! [As they 
drag him out overpowered] Gee-up, Neddy. [He finishes 
with a spirited imitation of & donkey's &ray]. 

THE KING. That is how they build men in Champagne. 
By the Holy Rood I care not if a bit of him gets into our 

THE QUEEN- Oh, for shame! for shame! Have men no 

The King snatches her into his arms, laughing bois- 
terously. The laugh spreads to all the soldiers and cour- 



tiers. The whole camp seems in a hilarious wproar. 

THE QUEEN. No no: for shame! for shame! 

The King slops her mouth with a kiss. Peter brays 
melodiously in the distance. 




Annajanska was first performed at the Coliseum Theatre 
in London on the 21 st January 1918, with Lillah McCarthy 
as the Grand Duchess, Henry Miller as Schneidekind, and 
Randle Ayrton as General Strammfest. 

A NNAJANSKA is frankly a bravura piece. The 
L\ modern variety theatre demands for its "turns" 
JL JLlittle plays called sketches, to last twenty minutes or 
so, and to enable some favorite performer to make a brief 
but dazzling appearance on some barely passable dramatic 
pretext. Miss Lillah McCarthy and I, as author and actress, 
have helped to make one another famous on many serious 
occasions, from Man and Superman to Androcles; and Mr 
Charles Ricketts has not disdained to snatch moments from 
his painting and sculpture to design some wonderful dresses 
for us. We three unbent as Mrs Siddons, Sir Joshua Rey- 
nolds, and Dr Johnson might have unbent, to devise a 
"turn" for the Coliseum variety theatre. Not that we would 
set down the art of the variety theatre as something to be 
condescended to, or our own art as elephantine. We should 
rather crave indulgence as three novices fresh from the awful 
legitimacy of the highbrow theatre. 

Well, Miss McCarthy and Mr Ricketts justified them- 
selves easily in the glamor of the footlights, to the strains of 
Tchaikovsky's 1812. I fear I did not. I have received only 
one compliment on my share; and that was from a friend 
who said "it is the only one of your works that is not too 
long." So I have made it a page or two longer, according to 




THE General's office in a military station on the east 
front in Beotia. An office table with a telephone, writing 
materials, official papers, etc., is set across the room. At 
the end of the table, a comfortable chair for the General. Behind 
the chair, a window. Facing it at the other end of the table, a 
plain wooden bench. At the side of 'the table, with its back to the 
door, a common chair, with a typewriter before it. Beside the 
door, which is opposite the end of the bench, a rack for caps and 
coats. There is nobody in the room. 

General Strammfest enters, followed by Lieutenant Schneide- 
kind. They hang up their cloaks and caps. Schneidekind takes a 
little longer than Strammfest, who comes to the table. 
STRAMMFEST, Schneidekind. 


STRAMMFEST. Have you sent my report yet to the govern- 
ment ? [He sits down}. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [coming to the table} Not yet, sir. Which 
government do you wish it sent to? [He sits down}. 

STRAMMFEST. That depends, Whats the latest? Which of 
them do you think is most likely to be in power tomorrow 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Well, the provisional government was 
going strong yesterday* But today they say that the prime 
minister has shot himself, and that the extreme left fellow 
has shot all the others* 

STRAMMFEST. Yes: thats all very well; but these fellows 
always shoot themselves with blank cartridge, 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Still, even the blank cartridge means 
backing down. I should send the report to the Maximilian- 

STRAMMFEST. Theyre no stronger than the Oppido- 
shavians; and in my own opinion the Moderate Red Revo- 
lutionaries are as likely to come out on top as either of them. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. I can easily put a few carbon sheets in 
the typewriter and send a copy each to the lot. 

STRAMMFEST- Waste of paper. You might as well send 


reports to an infant school. [He throws his head on the table 
with a groan]. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Tired out, sir? 

STRAMMFEST. O Schneidekind, Schneidekind, how can 
you bear to live? 

SCHNEIDEKIND. At my age, sir, I ask myself how can I 
bear to die? 

STRAMMFEST. You are young, young and heartless. You 
are excited by the revolution: you are attached to abstract 
things like liberty. But my family has served the Panjan- 
drums of Beotia faithfully for seven centuries. The Panjan- 
drums have kept our place for us at their courts, honored us, 
promoted us, shed their glory on us, made us what we are. 
When I hear you young men declaring that you are fighting 
for civilization, for democracy, for the overthrow of militar- 
ism, I ask myself how can a man shed his blood for empty 
words used by vulgar tradesmen and common laborers: 
mere wind and stink, [He rises, exalted by his theme]. A king 
is a splendid reality, a man raised above us like a god. You 
can see him; you can kiss his hand; you can be cheered by 
his smile and terrified by his frown. I would have died for 
my Panjandrum as my father died for his father. Your toil- 
ing millions were only too honored to receive the toes of our 
boots in the proper spot for them when they displeased their 
betters. And now what is left in life for me? [He relapses into 
his chair discouraged]. My Panjandrum is deposed and trans- 
ported to herd with convicts. The army, his pride and glory, 
is jparaded to hear seditious speeches from penniless rebels, 
with the colonel actually forced to take the chair and intro- 
duce the speaker, I myself am made Commander-in-Chief 
by my own solicitor: a Jew, Schneidekind! a Hebrew Jew! 
It seems only yesterday that these things would have been 
the ravings of a madman: today they are the commonplaces 
of the gutter press. I live now for three objects only: to de- 
feat the enemy, to restore the Panjandrum, and to hang my 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Be careful, sir: these are dangerous 


views to utter nowadays. What if I were to betray you? 


SCHNEIDEKIND. I wont, of course: my own father goes 
on just like that; but suppose I did? 

STRAMMFEST [chuckling] I should accuse you of treason to 
the Revolution, my lad; and they would immediately shoot 
you, unless you cried and asked to see your mother before 
you died, when they would probably change their minds 
and make you a brigadier. Enough. [He rises and expands 
his chest]. I feel the better for letting myself go. To business. 
[He takes up a telegram; opens it; and is thunderstruck by its 
contents]. Great heaven! [He collapsed into his chair]. This is 
the worst blow of all. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. What has happened? Are we beaten? 

STRAMMFEST. Man: do you think that a mere defeat 
could strike me down as this news does: I, who have been 
defeated thirteen times since the war began? O, my master, 
my master, my Panjandrum! [He is convulsed with sobs]. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. They have killed him? 

STRAMMFEST. A dagger has been struck through his 


STRAMMFEST. and through mine, through mine. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [relieved\ Oh: a metaphorical dagger. I 
thought you meant a real one- What has happened? 

STRAMMFEST. His daughter, the Grand Duchess Anna- 
janska, she whom the Panjandrina loved beyond all her 
other children, has has [he cannot finish]. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Committed suicide? 

STRAMMFEST. No. Better if she had. Oh, far far better. 

SCHNEIDEKIND {in hushtdtones] Left the Church? 

STRAMMFEST {shocked\ Certainly not. Do not blaspheme, 
young man. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Asked for the vote? 

STRAMMFEST. I would have given it to her with both 
hands to save her from this. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Save her from what? Dash it, sit, out 


with it. 

STRAMMFEST. She has joined the Revolution. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. But so have you, sir. Weve all joined the 
Revolution. She doesnt mean it any more than we do. 

STRAMMFEST. Heaven grant you may be right! But that 
is not the worst. She has eloped with a young officer. 
Eloped, Schneidekind, eloped! 

SCHNEIDEKIND [not particularly impressed] Yes, sir. 

STRAMMFEST. Annajanska, the beautiful, the innocent, 
my master's daughter ! [He buries his face in his hands}. 

The telephone rings. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [taking the receiver] Yes: G.H.Q. Yes. 
. . . Dont bawl: I'm not a general. Who is it speaking? . . . 
Why didnt you say so? don t you know your duty ? Next time 

you will lose your stripe Oh, theyve made you a colonel, 

have they? Well, theyve made me a field-marshal: now what 
have you to say?. . .Look here: what did you ring up for? I 

cant spend the day here listening to your cheek What! 

the Grand Duchess! [Strammfest starts]* Where did you 
catch her? 

STRAMMFEST [snatching the telephone and listening for the 
answer] Speak louder, will you: I am a General ... I know 
that, you dolt* Have you captured the officer that was with 
her? . , . Damnation! You shall answer for this: you let him 
go: he bribed you. . . * You must have seen him: the fellow 
is in the full dress court uniform of the Panderobajensky 
Hussars. I give you twelve hours to catch him or . , - whats 
that you say about the devil? Are you swearing at me, you 
. . . Thousand thunders! [To Schneidekind] The swine says 
that the Grand Duchess is a devil incarnate. [Into the tele- 
phone] Filthy traitor: is that the way you dare speak of the 
daughter of our anointed Panjandrum? I'll 

SCHNEIDEKIND [pulling the telephone from his lips] Take 
care, sir. 

STRAMMFEST. I wont take care: I'll have him shot. Let go 
that telephone. 

SCHNEIDEIUND. But for her own sake, sir 



SCHNEIDEKIND, For her own sake they had better send 
her here. She will be safe in your hands. 

STRAMMFEST (yielding the receiver] You are right. Be civil 
to him. I should choke [he sits down], 

SCHNEIDEKIND [into the telephone] Hullo. Never mind all 
that: it's only a fellow here who has been fooling with the 
telephone. I had to leave the room for a moment. Wash out; 
and send the girl along. We'll jolly soon teach her to behave 
herself here. . . . Oh, youve sent her already. Then why the 
devil didnt you say so, you [he hangs up the telephone 
angrily]. Just fancy: they started her off this morning: and 
all this is because the fellow likes to get on the telephone and 
hear himself talk now that he is a colonel. [The telephone 
rings again. He snatches the receiver furiously] Whats the 
matter now? ...[To the General] It's our own people down- 
stairs. [Into the receiver] Here ! do you suppose Ive nothing 
else to do than to hang on to the telephone all day? . , . Whats 
that? Not men enough to hold her! What do you mean ? [To 
the General] She is there, sir. 

STRAMMFEST. Tell them to send her up. I shall have to 
receive her without even rising, without kissing her hand, 
to keep up appearances before the escort. It will break my 

SCHNEIDEKIND [into the receiver] Send her up. ... Tcha! 
[He hangs up the receiver]. He says she is halfway up already: 
they couldnt hold her, 

The Grand Duchess bursts into the room, dragging with her 
two exhausted soldiers hanging on desperately to her arms. She 
is enveloped from head to foot by a fur-fined cloak, and wears a 
fur cap. 

SCHNEIDEKJND [pointing to the bench] At the word Go, 
place your prisoner on the bench in a sitting posture; and 
take your seats right and left of her. Go. 

The two soldiers make a supreme effort to force her to sit 
down. She flings them back so that they are forced to sit on the 
bench to save themselves from falling backwards over it, and 



is herself dragged into sitting between them. The second soldier \ 
holding on tight to the Grand Duchess with one hand, produces 
papers with the other, and waves them towards Schneidekind, 
who takes them from him and passes them on to the General. He 
opens them and reads them with a grave expression, 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Be good enough to wait, prisoner, until 
the General has read the papers on youi case. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [to the soldiers] Let go. [To Stramw- 
Jest] Tell them to let go, or 1*11 upset the bench backwards 
and bash our three heads on the floor. 

FIRST SOLDIER. No, little mother. Have mercy on the 

STRAMMFEST [growling over the edge of the paper he is 
reading] Hold your tongue. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [Uozingl Me, or the soldier? 

STRAMMFEST [horrified] The soldier, madam. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Tell him to let go. 

STRAMMFEST. Release the lady. 

The soldiers take their hands off her. One of them wipes his 
fevered brow. The other sucks his wrist* 

SCHNEIDEKIND [fiercely] 'ttention ! 

The two soldiers sit up stiffly* 

THE GRAND DUCHESS, Oh, let the poor man suck his wrist. 
It may be poisoned. I bit it. 

STRAMMFEST [shocked] You bit a common soldier! 

GRAND DUCHESS, Well, I offered to cauterize it with the 
poker in the office stove. But he was afraid* What more 
could I do? 

SCHNEIDEKIND, Why did you bite him, prisoner? 


STRAMMFEST. Did he let go when you bit him? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS, No* [Patting the soldier on the tack] 
You should give the man a cross for his devotion* I could 
not go on eating him; so I brought him along with me. 


THE GRAND DUCHESS. Dont call me prisoner. Genera! 
Strammfest. My grandmother dandled you on her knee* 



STRAMMFEST [bursting into tears] O God, yes. Believe me, 
jiy heart is what it was then. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Your brain also is what it was then. 
I will not be addressed by you as prisoner. 

STRAMMFEST. I may not, for your own sake, call you by 
your rightful and most sacred titles. What am I to call you? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. The Revolution has made us com- 
rades. Call me comrade. 

STRAMMFEST. I had rather die. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Then call me Annajanska; and I 
will call you Peter Piper, as grandmamma did. 

STRAMMFEST [painfully agitated] Schneidekind: you must 
speak to her: I cannot [he breaks down]. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [officially] The Republic of Beotia has 
been compelled to confine the Panjandrum and his family, 
for their own safety, within certain bounds. You have broken 
those bounds. 

STRAMMFEST [taking the word from him] You are I must 
say it a prisoner. What am I to do with you? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. You should have thought of that 
before you arrested me. 

STRAMMFEST. Come, come, prisoner! do you know what 
will happen to you if you compel me to take a sterner tone 
with you? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. No. But I know what will happen 
to you. 

STRAMMFEST. Pray what, prisoner? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS, Clergyman's sore throat. 

Schneidekind splutters: drops a paper; and conceals his 
laughter under the table. 

STRAMMFEST [thunderously] Lieutenant Schneidekind. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [in a stifled voice] Yes, sir. [The table 
vibrates visibly]. 

STRAMMFEST* Come out of it, you fool: youre upsetting 
the ink. 

Schneidekind merges, red in the face with suppressed 



STRAMMFEST. Why dont you laugh? Dont you appreci- 
ate Her Imperial Highness's joke? 

SCHNEIDEKIND [suddenly becoming solemn] I dont want to, 

STRAMMFEST. Laugh at once, sir. I order you to laugh. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [with a touch of temper} I really cant, sir. 
[He sits down decisively]. 

STRAMMFEST [growling at him] Yah! [He turns impress- 
ively to the Grand Duchess] Your Imperial Highness desires 
me to address you as comrade? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [rising and waving a red handker- 
chief] Long live the Revolution, comrade! 

STRAMMFEST [rising and sa/uting] Proletarians of all lands, 
unite. Lieutenant Schneidekind: you will rise and sing the 

SCHNEIDEKIND [rising] But I cannot, sir. I have no voice, 
no ear. 

STRAMMFEST. Then sit down; and bury your shame in 
your typewriter [Schneidekind sits down]. Comrade Anna- 
janska : you have eloped with a young officer. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [astounded] General Strammfest: 
you lie, 

STRAMMFEST, Denial, comrade, Js useless. It is through 
that officer that your movements have been traced. [The 
Grand Duchess is suddenly enlightened, and seems amused. 
Strammfest continues in a forensic manner] He joined you at 
the Golden Anchor in Hakonsburg, You gave us the slip 
there; but the officer was traced to Potterdam, where you 
rejoined him and went alone to Premsylople. What have 
you done with that unhappy young man ? Where is he ? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [pretending to whisper an important 
secret] Where he has always been. 

STRAMMFEST [eagerly] Where is that? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [impetuously] In your imagination. 
I came alone. lam alone. Hundreds of officers travel every 
day from Hakonsburg to Potterdam. What do I know 
about them? 



STRAMMFEST. They travel in khaki. They do not travel in 
full dress court uniform as this man did. 

SCHNEIDEKIND. Only officers who are eloping with grand 
duchesses wear court uniform: otherwise the grand duch- 
esses could not be seen with them. 

STRAMMFEST. Hold your tongue, [Schneidekind, in high 
dudgeons/olds his arms and retires from the conversation. The 
General returns to his paper and to his examination of the Grand 
Duchess] This officer travelled with your passport. What 
have you to say to that? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Bosh! How could a man travel 
with a woman's passport? 

STRAMMFEST. It is quite simple, as you very well know. 
A dozen travellers arrive at the boundary. The official col- 
lects their passports. He counts twelve persons; then counts 
the passports. If there are twelve, he is satisfied. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Then how do you know that one 
of the passports was mine? 

STRAMMFEST. A waiter at the Potterdam Hotel looked at 
the officer's passport when he was in his bath. It was your 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Stuff! Why did he not have me 

STRAMMFEST. When the waiter returned to the hotel with 
the police the officer had vanished; and you were there with 
your own passport* They knouted him. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh! Strammfest: send these men 
away. I must speak to you alone. 

STRAMMFEST [rising in horror] No: this is the last straw: 
I cannot consent. It is impossible, utterly, eternally impos- 
sible, that a daughter of the Imperial House should speak 
to anyone alone, were it even her own husband. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. You forget that there is an excep- 
tion, She may speak to a child alone. [She rises] Strammfest: 
you have been dandled on my grandmother's knee. By that 
gracious action the dowager Panjandrina made you a child 
forever- So did Nature, by the way. I order you to speak to 



tne alone. Do you hear? I order you. For seven hundred 
years no member of your family has ever disobeyed an order 
from a member of mine. Will you disobey me ? 

STRAMMFEST. There is an alternative to obedience. The 
dead cannot disobey. [He fakes out his pistol and places the 
muzzle against his temple]. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [snatching the pistol from him] For God's 
sake, General 

STRAMMFEST [attacking himfuriously to recover the weapon] 
Dog of a subaltern, restore that pistol, and my honor. 

SCHNEIDEKIND [reaching out with the pistol to the Grand 
Duchess] Take it: quick: he is as strong as a bull. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [snatching it] Aha! Leave the room, 
all of you except the General. At the double! lightning! 
electricity! [she fires shot after shot, spattering bullets about 
the ankles of the soldiers. They fly precipitately. She turns to 
Schneidekindy who has by this time been flung on the floor by the 
General] You too. [He scrambles up]. March [he flies to the 

SCHNEIDEKIND [turning at the door] For your own sake, 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [indignantly] Comrade! You!!! Go. 
[She fires two more shots. He vanishes]. 

STRAMMFEST [making an impulsive movement towards her] 
My Imperial Mistress 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Stop. I have one bullet left, if you 
attempt to take this from me \puttingthepistolto her temple]. \ 

STRAMMFEST [recoiling, and covering his eyes with his 
hands]. No no: put it down: put it down. I promise every- 
thing: I swear anything; put it down, I implore you. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [throwing it on the table] There ! 

STRAMMFEST [uncovering his eyes] Thank God! 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [gently] Strammfest: I am your 
comrade. Am I nothing more to you ? 

STRAMMFEST [falling on his knee] You are, God help me, 
.all that is left to me of the only power I recognize on earth* 
[He kisses her hand\. 


THE GRAND DUCHESS [indulgently} Idolater! When will 
you learn that our strength has never been in ourselves, but 
in your illusions about us? [She shakes of her kindliness, and 
sits down in his chair] Now tell me, what are your orders? 
And do you mean to obey them ? 

STRAMMFEST [ starting like a goaded ox, and blundering fret- 
fully about the room] How can I obey six different dictators, 
and not one gentleman among the lot of them ? One of them 
orders me to make peace with the foreign enemy. Another 
orders me to offer all the neutral countries 48 hours to 
choose between adopting his views on the single tax and 
being instantly invaded and annihilated. A third orders me 
to go to a damned Socialist Conference and explain that 
Beotia will allow no annexations and no indemnities, and 
merely wishes to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth 
throughout the universe. [He finishes behind Schneidekind's 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Damn their trifling? 

STRAMMFEST. I thank Your Imperial Highness from the 
bottom of my heart for that expression. Europe thanks you. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. M'yes; but [rising] Strammfest: 
you know that your cause the cause of the dynasty is 

STRAMMFEST. You must not say so. It is treason, even 
from you. [He sinks, discouraged, into the chair, and covers 
his face with his hanl\. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS, Do not deceive yourself, General: 
never again will a Panjandrum reign in Beotia. [She walks 
slowly across the room, brooding bitterly, and thinking aloud]. 
We are so decayed, so out of date, so feeble, so wicked in 
our own despite, that we have come at last to will our own 

STRAMMFEST. You are uttering blasphemy. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. All great truths begin as blas- 
phemies. All the king's horses and all the king's men cannot 
set up my father's throne again. If they could, you would 
have done it, would you not? 


STRAMMFEST. God knows I would! 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. You really mean that? You would 
keep the people in their hopeless squalid misery? you would 
fill those infamous prisons again with the noblest spirits in 
the land? you would thrust the rising sun of liberty back 
into the sea of blood from which it has risen? And all be- 
cause there was in the middle of the dirt and ugliness and 
horror a little patch of court splendor in which you could 
stand with a few orders on your uniform, and yawn day 
after day and night after night in unspeakable boredom un- 
til your grave yawned wider still, and you fell into it because 
you had nothing better to do. How can you be so stupid, so 

STRAMMFEST. You must be mad to think of royalty in 
such a way. I never yawned at court. The dogs yawned; but 
that was because they were dogs: they had no imagination, 
no ideals, no sense of honor and dignity to sustain them. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. My poor Strammfest: you were 
not often enough at court to tire of it. You were mostly 
soldiering; and when you came home to have a new order 
pinned on your breast, your happiness came through look- 
ing at my father and mother and at me, and adoring us. Was 
that not so? 

STRAMMFEST. Do you reproach me with it? I am not 
ashamed of it. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh, it was all very well for you, 
Strammfest. But think of me, of me! standing there for you 
to gape at, and knowing that I was no goddess, but only a 
girl like any other girl ! It was cruelty to animals: you could 
have stuck up a wax doll or a golden calf to worship; it 
would not have been bored. 

STRAMMFEST. Stop; or I shall renounce my allegiance to 
you. I have had women flogged for such seditious chatter as 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Do not provoke me to send a bullet 
through your head for reminding me of it. 

STRAMMFEST. You always had low tastes. You are no 


true daughter of the Panjandrums: you are a changeling, 
thrust into the Panjandrina's bed by some profligate nurse. 
I have heard stories of your childhood: of how 

THE GRAND DUCHESS- Ha, ha! Yes: they took me to the 
circus when I was a child. It was my first moment of happi- 
ness, my first glimpse of heaven. I ran away and joined the 
troupe. They caught me and dragged me back to my gilded 
cage; but I had tasted freedom; and they never could make 
me forget it. 

STRAMMFEST. Freedom! To be the slave of an acrobat! 
to be exhibited to the public! to 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh, I was trained to that. I had 
learnt that part of the business at court. 

STRAMMFEST. You had not been taught to strip yourself 
half naked and turn head over heels 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Man: I wanted to get rid of my 
swaddling clothes and turn head over heels. I wanted to, I 
wanted to, I wanted to. I can do it still. Shall I do it now? 

STRAMMFEST. If you do, I swear I will throw myself from 
the window so that I may meet your parents in heaven with- 
out having my medals torn from my breast by them. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh, you are incorrigible. You are 
mad, infatuated. You will not believe that we royal divini- 
ties are mere common flesh and blood even when we step 
down from our pedestals and tell you ourselves what a fool 
you are. I will argue no more with you: I will use my power. 
At a word from me your men will turn against you: already 
half of them do not salute you; and you dare not punish 
them: you have to pretend not to notice it* 

STRAMMFEST. It is not for you to taunt me with that if it 
is so* 

THE GRAND DUCHESS [haughtily] Taunt! / condescend to 
taunt! To taunt a common General! You forget yourself, sir. 

STRAMMFEST [dropping on his knee submissively} Now at 
last you speak like your royal self. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh, Strammfest, Strammfest, they 
have driven your slavery into your very bones. Why did you 


not spit in my face? 

STRAMMFEST [rising with a shudder] God forbid! 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Well, since you will be my slave, 
take your orders from me. I have not come here to save our 
wretched family and our bloodstained crown, I am come to 
save the Revolution. 

STRAMMFEST. Stupid as I am, I have come to think that 
I had better save that than save nothing. But what will the 
Revolution do for the people? Do not be deceived by the 
fine speeches of the revolutionary leaders and the pamphlets 
of the revolutionary writers. How much liberty is there 
where they have gained the upper hand ? Are they not hang- 
ing, shooting, imprisoning as much as ever we did? Do they 
ever tell the people the truth? No: if the truth does not suit 
them they spread lies instead, and make it a crime to tell the 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Of course they do. Why should 
they not? 

STRAMMFEST [hardly able to believe his ears] Why should 
they not! 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Yes: why should they not? We did 
it. You did it, whip in hand: you flogged women for teaching 
children to read. 

STRAMMFEST. To read sedition. To read Karl Marx. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Pshaw! How could they learn to 
read the Bible without learning to read Karl Marx? Why do 
you not stand to your guns and justify what you did, instead 
of making silly excuses. Do you suppose / think flogging a 
woman worse than flogging a man ? I, who am a woman my- 

STRAMMFEST. I am at a loss to understand your Imperial 
Highness. You seem to me to contradict yourself. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Nonsense! I say that if the people 
cannot govern themselves, they must be governed by some- 
body. If they will not do their duty without being half forced 
and half humbugged, somebody must force them and hum- 
bug them. Some energetic and capable minority must aJU 


ways be in power. Well, I am on the side of the energetic 
minority whose principles I agree with. The Revolution is 
as cruel as we were; but its aims are my aims. Therefore I 
stand for the Revolution. 

STRAMMFEST. You do not know what you are saying. 
This is pure Bolshevism. Are you, the daughter of a Pan- 
jandrum, a Bolshevist? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. I am anything that will make the 
world less like a prison and more like a circus. 

STRAMMFEST. Ah! You still want to be a circus star. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Yes, and be billed as the Bolshevik 
Empress. Nothing shall stop me. You have your orders, 
General Strammfest: save the Revolution, 

STRAMMFEST. What Revolution ? Which Revolution ? No 
two of your rabble of revolutionists mean the same thing by 
the Revolution. What can save a mob in which every man is 
rushing in a different direction ? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. I will tell you. The war can save it. 


THE GRAND DUCHESS. Yes, the war. Only a great com- 
mon danger and a great common duty can unite us and weld 
these wrangling factions into a solid commonwealth. 

STRAMMFEST. Bravo! War sets everything right: I have 
always said so. But what is a united people without a united 
army ? And what can / do ? I am only a soldier. I cannot make 
speeches: I have won no victories: they will not rally to my 
call [again he sinks info his chair with his former gesture of dis- 

THE GRAND DUCHESS, Are you sure they will not rally to 

STRAMMFEST. Oh, if only you were a man and a soldier! 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Suppose I find you a man and a 

STRAMMFEST [rising in a fury] Ah! the scoundrel you 
eloped with! You think you will shove this fellow into an 
army command, over my head. Never. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. You promised everything. You 



swore anything. [She marches as if in front of a regiment]. I 
know that this man alone can rouse the army to enthusiasm. 

STRAMMFEST. Delusion! Folly! He is some circus acro- 
bat; and you are in love with him. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. I swear I am not in love with him. 
I swear I will never marry him. 

STRAMMFEST. Then who is he? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Anybody in the world but you 
would have guessed long ago. He is under your very eyes. 

STRAMMFEST [staring past her right and left} Where? 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Look out of the window. 

He rushes to the window^ looking for the officer. The Grand 
Duchess takes of her cloak and appears in the uniform of the 
Pander obajensky Hussars. 

STRAMMFEST \peeringthrough the window^ Where is he? I 
can see no one. 

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Here, silly. 

STRAMMFEST [turning] You! Great Heavens! The Bol- 
shevik Empress! 




Augustus Does His Bit was performed for the first time 
at the Court Theatre in London by the Stage Society on the 
list January 1917, with Lalla Vandervelde as The Lady y 
F. B. J. Sharp as Lord Augustus Highcastle, and Charles Rock 
as Horatio Floyd Beamish. 

I WISH to express my gratitude for certain good offices 
which Augustus secured for me in January 1917. I had 
been invited to visit the theatre of war in Flanders by the 
Commander-in-Chief : an invitation which was, under the 
circumstances, a summons to duty. Thus I had occasion to 
spend some days in procuring the necessary passports and 
other official facilities for my journey. It happened just then 
that the Stage Society gave a performance of this little play. 
It opened the heart of every official to me. I have always 
been treated with distinguished consideration in my con- 
tacts with bureaucracy during the war; but on this occasion 
I found myself persona grata in the highest degree. There 
was only one word when the formalities were disposed of; 
and that was "We are up against Augustus all day." The 
shewing-up of Augustus scandalized one or two innocent 
and patriotic critics who regarded the prowess of the British 
army as inextricably bound up with Highcastle prestige. 
But our Government departments knew better: their prob- 
lem was how to win the war with Augustus on their backs, 
well-meaning, brave, patriotic, but obstructively fussy, self- 
important, imbecile, and disastrous. 

Save for the satisfaction of being able to laugh at Augus- 
tus in the theatre, nothing, as far as I know, came of my 
dramatic reduction of him to absurdity. Generals, admirals, 
Prime Ministers and Controllers, not to mention Emperors, 
Kaisers and Tsars, were scrapped remorselessly at home and 
abroad, for their sins or services, as the case might be. But 
Augustus stood like the Eddystone in a storm, and stands so 
to this day. He gave us his word that he was indispensable; 
and we took it. 

r I *\HE Mayor's parlor in the Town Hall of Little Piffling- 

I ton. Lord Augustus Highcastle, a distinguished mem- 

JL ber of the governing class , in the uniform of a colonel, 

and very well preserved at 45, is comfortably seated at a writing 

table with his heels on it, reading The Morning Post. The door 

faces him, a little to his left, at the other side of the room. The 

window is behind him. In the fireplace, a gas stove. On the table 

a bell button and a telephone. Portraits of fast Mayors, in robes 

and gold chains, adorn the walls. An elderly clerk with a short 

white beard and whiskers, and a very red nose, shuffles in. 

AUGUSTUS [hastily putting aside his paper and replacing his 
feet on the floor] Hullo ! Who are you ? 

THE CLERK. The staff [a slight impediment in his speech 
adds to the impression of incompetence produced by his age and 

AUGUSTUS. You the staff! What do you mean, man ? 

THE CLERK. What I say. There aint anybody else. 

AUGUSTUS. Tush! Where are the others? 

THE CLERK. At the front. 

AUGUSTUS. Quite right. Most proper. Why arnt you at 
the front? 

THE CLERK. Over age. Fiftyseven. 

AUGUSTUS. But you can still do your bit. Many an older 
man is in the G.R/s, or volunteering for home defence. 

THE CLERK. I have volunteered. 

AUGUSTUS. Then why are you not in uniform ? 

THE CLERK. They said they wouldnt have me if I was 
given away with a pound of tea. Told me to go home and 
not be an old silly. \A sense of unbearable wrong, til now only 
smouldering in him, bursts into flame] . Young Bill Knight, that 
I took with me, got two and sevenpence. I got nothing. Is it 
justice? This country is going to the dogs, if you ask me. 

AUGUSTUS [rising indignantly] I do not ask you, sir; and I 
will not allow you to say such things in my presence. Our 
statesmen are the greatest known to history. Our generals 
are invincible. Our army is the admiration of the world. 


[Furiously] How dare you tell me that the country is going 
to the dogs! 

THE CLERK. Why did they give young Bill Knight two 
arid sevenpence, and not give me even my tram fare ? Do you 
call that being great statesmen? As good as robbing me, I 
call it. 

AUGUSTUS. Thats enough. Leave the room. [He sits down 
and takes up his pen, settling himself to work. The clerk shuffles 
to the door. Augustus adds, with cold politeness} Send me the 

THE CLERK. I'm the Secretary. I cant leave the room and 
send myself to you at the same time, can I ? 

AUousTus.Dont be insolent. Where is the gentleman I 
have been corresponding with: Mr Horatio Floyd Beamish? 
THE CLERK [returning and bowi ng] Here. Me. 
AUGUSTUS. You! Ridiculous. What right have you to 
call yourself by a pretentious name of that sort? 

THE CLERK. You may drop the Horatio Floyd. Beamish 
is good enough for me. 

AUGUSTUS. Is there nobody else to take my instructions? 
THE CLERK. It's me or nobody. And for two pins I'd 
chuck it. Dont you drive me too far. Old uns like me is up 
in the world now. 

AUGUSTUS. If we were not at war, I should discharge you 
on the spot for disrespectful behavior. But England is in 
danger; and I cannot think of my personal dignity at such 
a moment. [Shouting at him] Dont you think of yours, either, 
worm that you are; or I'll have you arrested under the De- 
fence of the Realm Act, double quick. 

THE CLERK. What do I care about the realm? They done 
me out of two and seven 

AUGUSTUS. Oh, damn your two and seven! Did you re- 
ceive my letters? 


AUGUSTUS. I addressed a meeting here last night went 
straight to the platform from the train. I wrote to you that 
I should expect you to be present and report yourself- Why 


did you not do so? 

THE CLERK. The police wouldnt let me on the platform. 

AUGUSTUS. Did you tell them who you were? 

THE CLERK. They knew who I was. Thats why they 
wouldnt let me up. 

AUGUSTUS. This is too silly for anything. This town 
wants waking up. I made the best recruiting speech I ever 
made in my life; and not a man joined. 

THE CLERK. What did you expect? You told them our 
gallant fellows is falling at the rate of a thousand a day in the 
big push. Dying for Little Pifflington, you says. Come and 
take their places, you says. That aint the way to recruit. 

AUGUSTUS. But I expressly told them their widows would 
have pensions. 

THE CLERK. I heard you. Would have been all right if it 
had been the widows you wanted to get round. 

AUGUSTUS [rising angrily] This town is inhabited by das- 
tards. I say it with a full sense of responsibility, dastards! 
They call themselves Englishmen; and they are afraid to 

THE CLERK. Afraid to fight! You should see them on a 
Saturday night. 

AUGUSTUS. Yes: they fight one another; but they wont 
fight the Germans. 

THE CLERK. They got grudges again one another: how 
can they have grudges again the Huns that they never saw? 
Theyve no imagination: thats what it is. Bring the Huns 
here; and theyll quarrel with them fast enough. 

AUGUSTUS [returning to his seat with a grunt of disgust} 
Mf ! Theyll have them here if theyre not careful, [Seated] 
Have you carried out my orders about the war saving? 


AUGUSTUS. The allowance of petrol has been reduced by 
three quarters? 

THE CLERK. It has. 

AUGUSTUS. And you have told the motor-car people to 
come here and arrange to start munition work now that 



their motor business is stopped? 

THE CLERK. It aint stopped. Theyre busier than ever. 

AUGUSTUS. Busy at what? 

THE CLERK. Making small cars. 

AUGUSTUS. New cars! 

THE CLERK. The old cars only do twelve miles to the 
gallon. Everybody has to have a car that will do thirtyfive 

AUGUSTUS. Cant they take the train? 

THE CLERK. There aint no trains now. Theyve tore up 
the rails and sent them to the front. 


THE CLERK. Well, we have to get about somehow. 

AUGUSTUS. This is perfectly monstrous. Not in the least 
what I intended. 



THE CLERK [explaining Hell, they says, is paved with 
good intentions. 

AUGUSTUS [springing to his feet] Do you mean to insinuate 
that hell is paved with my good intentions with the good 
intentions of His Majesty's Government? 

THE CLERK. I dont mean to insinuate anything until the 
Defence of the Realm Act is repealed. It aint safe. 

AUGUSTUS. They told me that this town had set an example 
to all England in the matter of economy. I came down here 
to promise the Mayor a knighthood for his exertions. 

THE CLERK. The Mayor! Where do / come in ? 

AUGUSTUS. You dont come in. You go out. This is a fool 
of a place. I'm greatly disappointed. Deeply disappointed. 
[Flinging himself back into his chair] Disgusted. 

THE CLERK. What more can we do? Weve shut up every- 
thing. The picture gallery is shut. The museum is shut. The 
theatres and picture shows is shut: I havnt seen a movy 
picture for six months. 

AUGUSTUS. Man, man: do you wan t to see picture shows 
when the Hun is at the gate ? 


THE CLERK [mournfully] I dont now, though it drove me 
melancholy mad at first. I was on the point of taking a 
pennorth of rat poison 

AUGUSTUS. Why didnt you? 

THE CLERK. Because a friend advised me to take to drink 
instead. That saved my life, though it makes me very poor 
company in the mornings, as [hiccuping[ perhaps youve 

AUGUSTUS. Well, upon my soul! You are not ashamed to 
stand there and confess yourself a disgusting drunkard. 

THE CLERK. Well, what of it? We're at war now; and 
everything's changed. Besides, I should lose my job here if 
I stood drinking at the bar. I'm a respectable man and must 
buy my drink and take it home with me. And they wont 
serve me with less than a quart. If youd told me before the 
war that I could get through a quart of whisky in a day, I 
shouldnt have believed you. Thats the good of war: it brings 
out powers in a man that he never suspected himself capable 
of. You said so yourself in your speech last night. 

AUGUSTUS. I did not know that I was talking to an im- 
becile. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. There must be 
an end of this drunken slacking. I'm going to establish a 
new order of things here. I shall come down every morning 
before breakfast until things are properly in train. Have a 
cup of coffee and two rolls for me here every morning at 
half-past ten. 

THE CLERK. You cant have no rolls. The only baker that 
baked rolls was a Hun; and he's been interned. 

AUGUSTUS. Quite right, too. And was there no English- 
man to take his place? 

THE CLERK. There was. But he was caught spying; and 
they took him up to London and shot him. 

AUGUSTUS. Shot an Englishman ! 

THE CLERK. Well, it stands to reason if the Germans 
wanted a spy they wouldnt employ a German that every- 
body would suspect, dont it? 

AUGUSTUS [rising again] Do you mean to say, you scoun- 



drel, that an Englishman is capable of selling his country to 
the enemy for gold? 

THE CLERK. Not as a general thing I wouldnt say it; but 
theres men here would sell their own mothers for two cop- 
pers if they got the chance. 

AUGUSTUS. Beamish : it's an ill bird that fouls its own nest. 

THE CLERK. It wasnt me that let Little Pifflington get 
foul. / dont belong to the governing classes. I only tell you 
why you cant have no rolls. 

AUGUSTUS [intensely irritated} Can you tell me where I 
can find an intelligent being to take my orders? 

THE CLERK. One of the street sweepers used to teach in 
the school until it was shut up for the sake of economy. Will 
he do? 

AUGUSTUS. What! You mean to tell me that when the 
lives of the gallant fellows in our trenches, and the fate of the 
British Empire, depend on our keeping up the supply of 
shells, you are wasting money on sweeping the streets ? 

THE CLERK. We have to. We dropped it for a while; but 
the infant death rate went up something frightful. 

AUGUSTUS. What matters the death rate of Little Piffling- 
ton in a moment like this ? Think of our gallant soldiers, not 
of your squalling infants. 

THE CLERK. If you want soldiers you must have children. 
You cant buy em in boxes, like toy soldiers. 

AUGUSTUS. Beamish: the long and short of it is, you 
are no patriot. Go downstairs to your office; and have that 
gas stove taken away and replaced by an ordinary grate. 
The Board of Trade has urged on me the necessity for 
economizing gas. 

THE CLERK. Our orders from the Minister of Munitions 
is to use gas instead of coal, because it saves material. Which 
is it to be? 

AUGUSTUS [bawlingfuriously at him] Both! Dont criticize 
your orders: obey them. Yours not to reason why: yours but 
to do and die. Thats war. [Cooling down} Have you anything 
else to say? 



THE CLERK. Yes: I want a rise. 

AUGUSTUS [reeling against the table in his horror] A rise! 
Horatio Floyd Beamish: do you know that we are at war? 

THE CLERK [feebly ironical] I have noticed something 
about it in the papers. Heard you mention it once or twice, 
now I come to think of it. 

AUGUSTUS. Our gallant fellows are dying in the trenches; 
and you want a rise! 

THE CLERK. What are they dying for? To keep me alive, 
aint it? Well, whats the good of that if I'm dead of hunger 
by the time they come back? 

AUGUSTUS. Everybody else is making sacrifices without 
a thought of self; and you 

THE CLERK. Not half, they aint. Wheres the baker's sacri- 
fice? Wheres the coal merchant's? Wheres the butcher's? 
Charging me double: thats how they sacrifice themselves. 
Well, I want to sacrifice myself that way too. Just double 
next Saturday: double and not a penny less; or no secretary 
for you [he stiffens himself shakily, and makes resolutely for the 

AUGUSTUS [looking after him contemptuously] Go: miser- 
able pro-German. 

THE CLERK [rushing back and facing him] Who are you 
calling a pro-German ? 

AUGUSTUS. Another word, and I charge you under the 
Act with discouraging me. Go. 

The clerk blenches and goes out, cowed. 

The telephone rings. 

AUGUSTUS [taking up the telephone receiver] Hallo . . . 
Yes: who are you? . . . oh, Blueloo, is it? ... Yes: theres 
nobody in the room: fire away . . . What? ... A spy! ... A 
woman! . . . Yes: I brought it down with me. Do you sup- 
pose I'm such a fool as to let it out of my hands? Why, it 
gives a list of all our anti-aircraft emplacements from Rams- 
gate to Skegness. The Germans would give a million for it 
what? . - . But how could she possibly know about it? I 
havnt mentioned it to a soul, except, of course, dear Lucy. 



. . . Oh, Toto and Lady Popham and that lot: they dont 
count: theyre all right. I mean that I havnt mentioned it to 
any Germans. . . , Pooh! Dont you be nervous, old chap. I 
know you think me a fool; but I'm not such a fool as all that. 
If she tries to get it out of me I'll have her in the Tower 
before you ring up again. [The clerk returns]. Sh-sh! Some- 
body's just come in: ring off. Goodbye. [He hangs up the 

THE CLERK. Are you engaged? [His manner is strangely 

AUGUSTUS. What business is that of yours? However, if 
you will take the trouble to read the society papers for this 
week, you will see that I am engaged to the Honorable Lucy 
Popham, youngest daughter of 

THE CLERK. That aint what I mean. Can you see a female ? 

AUGUSTUS. Of course I can see a female as easily as a 
male. Do you suppose I'm blind? 

THE CLERK. You dont seem to follow me, somehow. 
Theres a female downstairs: what you might call a lady. She 
wants to know can you see her if I let her up. 

AUGUSTUS. Oh, you mean am I disengaged. Tell the lady 
I have just received news of the greatest importance which 
will occupy my entire attention for the rest of the day, and 
that she must write for an appointment. 

THE CLERK. I'll ask her to explain her business to me. 7 
aint above talking to a handsome young female when I get 
the chance [going], 

AUGUSTUS. Stop. Does she seem to be a person of con- 

THE CLERK. A regular marchioness, if you ask me. 

AUGUSTUS. Hm ! Beautiful, did you say? 

THE CLERK. A human chrysanthemum, sir, believe me. 

AUGUSTUS. It will be extremely inconvenient for me to 
see her; but the country is in danger; and we must not con- 
sider our own comfort. Think how our gallant fellows are 
suffering in the trenches! Shew her up. [The clerk makes 
for the door, whistling the latest popular love ballad]^ Stop 


whistling instantly, sir. This is not a casino. 

THE CLERK. Aint it? You just wait til you see her. [He 
goes out]. 

Augustus produces a mirror, a comb, and a pot of moustache 
pomade from the drawer of the writing-table , and sits down 
before the mirror to put some touches to his toilet. 

The clerk returns, devotedly ushering a very attractive lady, 
brilliantly dressed. She has a dainty wallet hanging from her 
wrist. Augustus hastily covers up his toilet apparatus with The 
MorningPost, and rises in an attitude of pompous condescension. 

THE CLERK [to Augustus] Here she is. [To the lady] May 
I offer you a chair, lady? [He places a chair at the writing-table 
opposite Augustus, and steals out on tiptoe]. 

AUGUSTUS. Be seated, madam. 

THE LADY [sitting down] Are you Lord Augustus High- 

AUGUSTUS [sitting also] Madam: I am. 

THE LADY [with awe] The great Lord Augustus ? 

AUGUSTUS. I should not dream of describing myself so, 
madam; but no doubt I have impressed my countrymen 
and [bowing gallantly] may I say my countrywomen as 
having some exceptional claims to their consideration. 

THE LADY [emotionally] What a beautiful voice you have! 

AUGUSTUS. What you hear, madam, is the voice of my 
country, which now takes a sweet and noble tone even in the 
harsh mouth of high officialism. 

THE LADY. Please go on. You express yourself so wonder- 

AUGUSTUS. It would be strange indeed if, after sitting on 
thirty-seven Royal Commissions, mostly as chairman, I had 
not mastered the art of public expression. Even the Radical 
papers have paid me the high compliment of declaring that 
I am never more impressive than when I have nothing to say. 

THE LADY. I never read the Radical papers. All I can 
tell you is that what we women admire in you is not the 
politician, but the man of action, the heroic warrior, the 
beau sabreur* 



AUGUSTUS [gloomily] Madam, I beg! Please! My mili- 
tary exploits are not a pleasant subject, unhappily. 

THE LADY. Oh, I know, I know. How shamefully you 
have been treated! What ingratitude! But the country is 
with you. The women are with you. Oh, do you think all 
our hearts did not throb and all our nerves thrill when we 
heard how, when you were ordered to occupy that terrible 
quarry in Hulluch, and you swept into it at the head of 
your men like a sea-god riding on a tidal wave, you suddenly 
sprang over the top shouting "To Berlin! Forward!"; 
dashed at the German army single-handed; and were cut off 
and made prisoner by the Huns. 

AUGUSTUS. Yes, madam; and what was my reward ? They 
said I had disobeyed orders, and sent me home. Have they 
forgotten Nelson in the Baltic? Has any British battle ever 
been won except by a bold individual initiative ? I say nothing 
of professional jealousy: it exists in the army as elsewhere; 
but it is a bitter thought to me that the recognition denied 
me by my own country or rather by the Radical cabal in 
the Cabinet which pursues my family with rancorous class 
hatred that this recognition, I say, came to me at the 
hands of an enemy of a rank Prussian. 

THE LADY. You dont say so! 

AUGUSTUS. How else should I be here instead of starving 
to death in Ruhleben? Yes, madam: the Colonel of the 
Pomeranian regiment which captured me, after learning 
what I had done, and conversing for an hour with me on 
European politics and military strategy, declared that no- 
thing would induce him to deprive my country of my ser- 
vices, and set me free. I offered, of course, to procure the 
release in exchange of a German officer of equal quality; but 
he would not hear of it- He was kind enough to say he could 
not believe that a German officer answering to that descrip- 
tion existed. [With emotion] I had my first taste of the in* 
gratitude of my own country as I made my way back to our 
lines. A shot from our front trench struck me in the head. I 
still carry the flattened projectile as a trophy [he throws it on 


the table: the noise it makes testifies to its weight]. Had it pene- 
trated to the brain I might never have sat on another Royal 
Commission. Fortunately we have strong heads, we High- 
castles. Nothing has ever penetrated to our brains. 

THE LADY. How thrilling! How simple! And how tragic! 
But you will forgive England? Remember: England! 
Forgive her. 

AUGUSTUS [with gloomy magnanimity} It will make no 
difference whatever to my services to my country. Though 
she slay me, yet will I, if not exactly trust in her, at least take 
my part in her government. I am ever at my country's call. 
Whether it be the embassy in a leading European capital, a 
governor-generalship in the tropics, or my humble mission 
here to make Little Pifflington do its bit, I am always ready 
for the sacrifice. Whilst England remains England, wher- 
ever there is a public job to be done you will find a High- 
castle sticking to it. And now, madam, enough of my tragic 
personal history. You have called on business. What can I 
do for you ? 

THE LADY. You have relatives at the Foreign Office, have 
you not? 

AUGUSTUS [haughtily] Madam: the Foreign Office is 
staffed by my relatives exclusively. 

THE LADY. Has the Foreign Office warned you that you 
are being pursued by a female spy who is determined to 
obtain possession of a certain list of gun emplacements 

AUGUSTUS [interrupting her somewhat loftily] All that is 
perfectly well known to this department, madam. 

THE LADY [surprised and rather indignant] Is it ? Who told 
you ? Was it one of your German brothers-in-law? 

AUGUSTUS [injured, remonstrating I have only three Ger- 
man brothers-in-law, madam. Really, from your tone, one 
would suppose that I had several. Pardon my sensitiveness 
on that subject; but reports are continually being circu- 
lated that I have been shot as a traitor in the courtyard of the 
Rite Hotel simply because I have German brothers-in-law. 
[Withfeeling\ If you had a German brother-in-law, madam, 



you would know that nothing else in the world produces so 
strong an anti-German feeling. Life affords no keener pleas- 
ure than finding a brother-in-law's name in the German 
casualty list. 

THE LADY. Nobody knows that better than I. Wait until 
you hear what I have come to tell you: you will understand 
me as no one else could. Listen. This spy, this woman 

AUGUSTUS [all attention] Yes? 

THE LADY. She is a German. A Hun. 

AUGUSTUS. Yes, yes. She would be. Continue. 

THE LADY. She is my sister-in-law. 

AUGUSTUS [deferentially] I see you are well connected, 
madam. Proceed. 

THE LADY. Need I add that she is my bitterest enemy? 

AUGUSTUS. May I [he proffers his hand. They shake, 
fervently. From this moment onward Augustus becomes more and 
more confidential, gallant, and charming 

THE LADY. Quite so. Well, she is an intimate friend of 
your brother at the War Office, Hungerford Highcastle: 
Blueloo as you call him: I dont know why. 

AUGUSTUS [explaining He was originally called The 
Singing Oyster, because he sang drawing-room ballads with 
such an extraordinary absence of expression. He was then 
called the Blue Point for a season or two. Finally he became 

THE LADY. Oh, indeed: I didnt know. Well, Blueloo is 
simply infatuated with my sister-in-law; and he has rashly 
let out to her that this list is in your possession. He forgot 
himself because he was in a towering rage at its being en- 
trusted to you: his language was terrible. He ordered all the 
guns to be shifted at once. 

AUGUSTUS. What on earth did he do that for? 

THE LADY. I cant imagine. But this I know. She made a 
bet with him that she would come down here and obtain 
possession of that list and get clean away into the street with 
it. He took the bet on condition that she brought it straight 
back to him at the War Office. 


AUGUSTUS. Good heavens! And you mean to tell me that 
Blueloo was such a dolt as to believe that she could succeed? 
Does he take me for a fool ? 

THE LADY. Oh, impossible! He is jealous of your in- 
tellect. The bet is an insult to you: dont you feel that? After 
what you have done for our country 

AUGUSTUS. Oh, never mind that. It is the idiocy of the 
thing I look at. He'll lose his bet; and serve him right! 

THE LADY. You feel sure you will be able to resist the 
siren ? I warn you, she is very fascinating. 

AUGUSTUS. You need have no fear, madam. I hope she 
will come and try it on. Fascination is a game that two can 
play at. For centuries the younger sons of the Highcastles 
have had nothing to do but fascinate attractive females when 
they were not sitting on Royal Commissions or on duty at 
Knightsbridge barracks. By Gad, madam, if the siren comes 
here she will meet her match. 

THE LADY. I feel that. But if she fails to seduce you 

AUGUSTUS [Mushing] Madam! 

THE LADY [continuing] from your allegiance 

AUGUSTUS. Oh, that! 

THE LADY. she will resort to fraud, to force, to any- 
thing. She will burgle your office: she will have you attacked 
and garotted at night in the street. 

AUGUSTUS. Pooh! I'm not afraid. 

THE LADY. Oh, your courage will only tempt you into 
danger. She may get the list after all. It is true that the guns 
are moved. But she would win her bet. 

AUGUSTUS [cautiously] You did not say that the guns were 
moved. You said that Blueloo had ordered them to be moved. 

THE LADY. Well, that is the same thing, isnt it? 

AUGUSTUS. Not quite at the War Office. No doubt 
those guns will be moved: possibly even before the end of 
the war. 

THE LADY. Then you think they are there still ! But if the 
German War Office gets the list and she will copy it before 
she gives it back to Blueloo, you may depend on it all is lost. 



AUGUSTUS [lazily] Well, I should not go as far as that. 
[Lowering his voice] Will you swear to me not to repeat what 
I am going to say to you; for if the British public knew that 
I had said it, I should be at once hounded down as a pro- 

THE LADY. I will be silent as the grave. I swear it. 
AUGUSTUS [again faking if easily] Well, our people have 
for some reason made up their minds that the German War 
Office is everything that our War Office is not that it 
carries promptitude, efficiency, and organization to a pitch 
of completeness and perfection that must be, in my opinion, 
destructive to the happiness of the staff. My own view 
which you are pledged, remember, not to betray is that 
the German War Office is no better than any other War 
Office. I found that opinion on my observation of the char- 
acters of my brothers-in-law: one of whom, by the way, is on 
the German general staff. I am not at all sure that this list 
of gun emplacements would receive the smallest attention. 
You see, there are always so many more important things to 
be attended to. Family matters, and so on, you understand. 

THE LADY. Still, if a question were asked in the House of 

AUGUSTUS. The great advantage of being at war, madam, 
is that nobody takes the slightest notice of the House of 
Commons. No doubt it is sometimes necessary for a Minister 
to soothe the more seditious members of that assembly by 
giving a pledge or two; but the War Office takes no notice 
of such things. 

THE LADY [sfaringaf Aim] Then you think this list of gun 
emplacements doesnt matter!! 

AUGUSTUS : By no means, madam. It matters very much 
indeed. If this spy were to obtain possession of the list, 
Blueloo would tell the story at every dinner-table in Lon- 
don; and 

THE LADY. And you might lose your post. Of course- 

AUGUSTUS [amazed and indignant] I lose my post! What 
are you dreaming about, madam? How could I possibly be 


spared? There are hardly Highcastles enough at present to 
fill half the posts created by this war. No: Blueloo would 
not go that far. He is at least a gentleman. But I should be 
chaffed; and, frankly, I dont like being chaffed. 

THE LADY. Of course not. Who does? It would never do. 
Oh never, never. 

AUGUSTUS. I'm glad you see it in that light. And now, as 
a measure of security, I shall put that list in my pocket. [He 
begins searching vainly from drawer to drawer in the writing- 
table}. Where on earth? What the dickens did I ? Thats 
very odd: I Where the deuce ? I thought I had put it in 
the Oh, here it is ! No : this is Lucy's last letter. 

THE LADY [elegiacally] Lucy's Last Letter! What a title 
for a picture play! 

AUGUSTUS [delighted] Yes: it is, isnt it? Lucy appeals to 
the imagination like no other woman. By the way [handing 
over the letter] I wonder could you read it for me? Lucy is a 
darling girl; but I really cant read her writing. In London I 
get the office typist to decipher it and make me a typed 
copy; but here there is nobody. 

THE LADY [puzzling over it] It is really almost illegible. 
I think the beginning is meant for "Dearest Gus." 

AUGUSTUS [eagerly] Yes : that is what she usually calls me. 
Please go on. 

THE LADY [trying to decipher it] "What a" "what a" 
oh yes: "what a forgetful old" something "you are!" 
I cant make out the word. 

AUGUSTUS [greatly interested] Is it blighter? That is a 
favorite expression of hers. 

THE LADY. I think so. At all events it begins with a B. 
[Reading "What a forgetful old" [she is interrupted by a 
knock at the door], 

AUGUSTUS [impatiently] Come in. [The clerk enters, clean 
shaven and in khaki y with an official paper and an envelope in 
his hand\. What is this ridiculous mummery, sir? 

THE CLERK [c 'omingto the table and exhibiting his uniform to 
both] Theyve passed me. The recruiting officer come for 



me. Ive had my two and seven. 

AUGUSTUS [rising wrathfully] I shall not permit it. What 
do they mean by taking my office staff? Good God ! they will 
be taking our hunt servants next. [Confronting the clerk] 
What did the man mean ? What did he say? 

THE CLERK. He said that now you was on the job we'd 
want another million men, and he was going to take the old- 
age pensioners or anyone he could get. 

AUGUSTUS. And did you dare to knock at my door and 
interrupt my business with this lady to repeat this man's 

THE CLERK. No. I come because the waiter from the 
hotel brought this paper. You left it on the coffee-room 
breakfast-table this morning. 

THE LADY [intercepting it] It is the list. Good heavens ! 

THE CLERK \projfferingthe envelope] He says he thinks this 
is the envelope belonging to it. 

THE LADY [snatching the envelope also] Yes! Addressed to 
you. Lord Augustus! [Augustus comes back to the table to look 
at it] Oh, how imprudent! Everybody would guess its im- 
portance with your name on it. Fortunately I have some 
letters of my own here [opening her wallet]. Why not hide it 
in one of my envelopes? then no one will dream that the 
enclosure is of any political value* [Taking out a letter^ she 
crosses the room towards the window, whispering to Augustus as 
she passes him] Get rid of that man. 

AUGUSTUS [haughtily approaching the clerk, who humor- 
ously makes a paralytic attempt to stand at attention] Have you 
any further business here, pray? 

^THE CLERK. Am I to give the waiter anything; or will you 
do it yourself? 

AUGUSTUS. Which waiter is it? The English one? 

THE CLERK. No: the one that calls hisself a Swiss. 
Shouldnt wonder if he'd made a copy of that paper. 

AUGUSTUS. Keep your impertinent surmises to yourself, 
sir. Remember that you are in the army now; and let me 
have no more of your civilian insubordination* Attention! 
86 ' ' 


Left turn ! Quick march ! 

THE CLERK [stolidly] I dunno what you mean. 

AUGUSTUS. Go to the guard-room and report yourself for 
disobeying orders. Now do you know what I mean? 

THE CLERK. Now look here. I aint going to argue with 

AUGUSTUS. Nor I with you. Out with you. 

He seizes the clerk; and rushes him through the door. The 
moment the lady is left alone > she snatches a sheet of official paper 
from the stationery rack; folds it so that it resembles the list; com- 
pares the two to see that they look exactly alike; whips the list into 
her wallet; and substitutes the facsimile for it. Then she listens 
for the return of Augustus. A crash is heard, as of the clerk falling 

Augustus returns and is about to close the door when the voice 
of the clerk is heard from below: 

THE CLERK. I'll have the law of you for this, I will. 

AUGUSTUS [shouting down to him] Theres no more law for 
you, you scoundrel. Youre a soldier now. [He shuts the door 
and comes to the lady]. Thank heaven, the war has given us 
the upper hand of these fellows at last. Excuse my violence; 
but discipline is absolutely necessary in dealing with the 
lower middle classes. 

THE LADY. Serve the insolent creature right! Look! I 
have found you a beautiful envelope for the list, an unmis- 
takable lady's envelope. [She puts the sham list into her 
envelope and hands it to him], 

AUGUSTUS. Excellent. Really very clever of you. [Slyly] 
Come: would you like to have a peep at the list [beginning to 
take the blank paper from the envelope] ? 

THE LADY [in the brink of detection] No no. Oh, please, no. 

AUGUSTUS. Why Pit wont bite you [drawing it out further]. 

THE LADY [snatching at his hand] Stop. Remember: if 
there should be an inquiry, you must be able to swear that 
you never shewed that list to a mortal soul. 

AUGUSTUS. Oh, that is a mere form. If you are really 



THE LADY. I am not. I couldnt bear to look at it. One of 
my dearest friends was blown to pieces by an aircraft gun; 
and since then I have never been able to think of one without 

AUGUSTUS. You mean it was a real gun, and actually went 
off. How sad! how sad! [He pushes the sham list back into the 
envelope, and pockets it]. 

THE LADY. Ah! [great sigh of relief]. And now, Lord 
Augustus, I have taken up too much of your valuable time. 

AUGUSTUS. What! Must you go? 

THE LADY. You are so busy. 

AUGUSTUS. Yes; but not before lunch, you know. I never 
can do much before lunch. And I'm no good at all in the 
afternoon. From five to six is my real working time. Must 
you really go? 

THE LADY. I must, really. I have done my business very 
satisfactorily. Thank you ever so much [she proffers her hand]. 

AUGUSTUS [shaking it affectionately as he leads her to the 
door, but first pressing the bell button with his left hand] Good- 
bye. Goodbye. So sorry to lose you. Kind of you to come; 
but there was no real danger. You see, my dear little lady, 
all this talk about war saving, and secrecy, and keeping the 
blinds down at night, and so forth, is all very well; but un- 
less it's carried out with intelligence, believe me, you may 
waste a pound to save a penny; you may let out all sorts of 
secrets to the enemy; you may guide the Zeppelins right on 
to your own chimneys. Thats where the ability of the govern- 
ing class comes in. Shall the fellow call a taxi for you ? 

THE LADY. No, thanks: I prefer walking* Goodbye. 
Again, many, many thanks. 

She goes out. Augustus returns to the writing-table smiling, 
and takes another look at himself in the mirror. The clerkreturns 
with his head bandaged^ carrying a poker. 

THE CLERK. What did you ring for? [Augustus hastily 
drops the mirror]. Dont you come nigh me or I'll split your 
head with this poker, thick as it is. 


AUGUSTUS. It does not seem to me an exceptionally thick 
poker. I rang for you to shew the lady out. 

THE CLERK. She's gone. She run out like a rabbit. I ask 
myself, why was she in such a hurry ? 

THE LADY'S VOICE [from the street] Lord Augustus. Lord 

THE CLERK. She's calling you. 

AUGUSTUS [running to the window and throwing it up] 
What is it ? Wont you come up ? 

THE LADY. Is the clerk there? 

AUGUSTUS. Yes. Do you want him ? 


AUGUSTUS. The lady wants you at the window. 

THE CLERK, [rushing to the window and putting down the 
poker] Yes, maam ? Here I am, maam. What is it, maam ? 

THE LADY. I want you to witness that I got clean away 
into the street. I am coming up now. 

The two men stare at one another. 

THE CLERK. Wants me to witness that she got clean away 
into the street! 

AUGUSTUS. What on earth does she mean? 

The lady returns. 

THE LADY. May I use your telephone? 

AUGUSTUS. Certainly. Certainly. [Taking the receiver 
down] What number shall I get you? 

THE LADY. The War Office, please. 

AUGUSTUS. The War Office ! ? 

THE LADY. If you will be so good. 

AUGUSTUS. But Oh, very well. [Into the receiver] 
Hallo. This is the Town Hall Recruiting Office. Give me 
Colonel Bogey, sharp. 

A pause. 

THE CLERK [breaking the painful silence] I dont think Pm 
awake. This is a dream of a movy picture, this is. 

AUGUSTUS [his ear at the receiver] Shut up, will you? 
[Into the telephone] What?...[T0 the lady] Whom do you 
want to get on to? 



THE LADY. BlueloO. 

AUGUSTUS [into the telephone] Put me through to Lord 

Hungerford Highcastle I'm his brother, idiot That 

you, Blueloo? Lady here at Little Pifflington wants to speak 
to you. Hold the line. [To the lady} Now, madam [he hands 
her the receiver]. 

THE LADY [sifting down in Augustus's chair to speak into the 
telephone] Is that Blueloo?. . .Do you recognize my voice? 
. . . I ve won our bet 

AUGUSTUS. Your bet! 

THE LADY [into the telephone] Yes: I have the list in my 
wallet .... 

AUGUSTUS. Nothing of the kind, madam. I have it here 
in my pocket. [He takes the envelope from his pocket; draws out 
the paper; and unfolds it]. 

THE LADY [continuing] Yes: I got clean into the street 
with it. I have a witness. I could have got to London with 
it. Augustus wont deny it. . . , 

AUGUSTUS [contemplating the blank paper] Theres nothing 
written on this. Where is the list of guns? 

THE LADY [continuing Oh, it was quite easy. I said I was 
my sister-in-law and that I was a Hun. He lapped it up like 
a kitten 

AUGUSTUS. You dont mean to say that 

THE LADY [continuing I got hold of the list for a moment 
and changed it for a piece of paper out of his stationery rack: 
it was quite easy [she laughs; and it is clear that Blueloo is 
laughing too]. 


THE CLERK [laughing slowly and laboriously, with intense 
enjoyment] Ha ha ! Ha ha ha ! Ha ! [Augustus rushes at him: he 
snatches up the poker and stands on guard]. No you dont. 

THE LADY [still at the telephone y waving her disengaged 
hand behind her impatiently at them to stop making a noise} 
Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh!!! {Augustus > with a shrug, goes up the middle 
of the room. The lady resumes her conversation with the tele- 
phone] What?. . . Oh yes:Fm coming up by the 12.35: why 


not have tea with me at Rumpelmeister's ? . . . Rum-pel- 
meister's. You know: they call it Robinson's now. . . . 
Right. Ta ta. [She hangs up the receiver, and is passing round 
the table on her way towards the door when she is confronted by 

AUGUSTUS. Madam: I consider your conduct most un- 
patriotic. You make bets and abuse the confidence of the 
hardworked officials who are doing their bit for their coun- 
try whilst our gallant fellows are perishing in the trenches 

THE LADY. Oh, the gallant fellows are not all in the 
trenches, Augustus. Some of them have come home for a 
few days hard-earned leave; and I am sure you wont grudge 
them a little fun at your expense. 

THE CLERK. Hear! Hear ! 

AUGUSTUS [amiably] Ah, well! For my country's sake! 




I MUST remind the reader that this playlet was written 
when its principal character, far from being a fallen foe 
and virtually a prisoner in our victorious hands, was still 
the Caesar whose legions we were resisting with our hearts 
in our mouths. Many were so horribly afraid of him that 
they could not forgive me for not being afraid of him: I 
seemed to be trifling heartlessly with a deadly peril. I knew 
better; and I have represented Caesar as knowing better 
himself. But it was one of the quaintnesses of popular feeling 
during the war that anyone who breathed the slightest doubt 
of the absolute perfection of German organization, the 
Machiavellian depth of German diplomacy, the omniscience 
of German science, the equipment of every German with a 
complete philosophy of history, and the consequent hope- 
lessness of overcoming so magnificently accomplished an 
enemy except by the sacrifice of every recreative activity to 
incessant and vehement war work, including a heartbreak- 
ing mass of fussing and cadging and bluffing that did no- 
thing but waste our energies and tire our resolution, was 
called a pro-German. 

Now that this is all over, and the upshot of the fighting 
has shewn that we could quite well have afforded to laugh at 
the doomed Inca, I am in another difficulty. I may be sup- 
posed to be hitting Caesar when he is down. That is why I 
preface the play with this reminder that when it was written 
he was not down. To make quite sure, I have gone through 
the proof sheets very carefully, and deleted everything that 
could possibly be mistaken for a foul blow. I have of course 
maintained the ancient privilege of comedy to chasten 
Caesar's foibles by laughing at them, whilst introducing 
enough obvious and outrageous fiction to relieve both my- 
self and my model from the obligations and responsibilities 
of sober history and biography. But I should certainly put 
the play in the fire instead of publishing it if it contained a 
word against our defeated enemy that I would not have 
written in 1913. 


The Inca of Perusalem was performed for the first time 
in England by the Pioneer Players at the Criterion Theatre, Lon- 
don, on \6th December 1917, with Gertrude Kingston as Er- 
myntrude, Helen Morris as the Princess, Nigel Playfair as the 
waiter, Alfred Drayton as the hotel-manager, C. Wordley Hulse 
as the Archdeacon, andRandle Ayrton as the Inca. 


fr^HE tableau curtains are closed. An English archdeacon 

I comes through them in a condition of extreme irritation. 
1 He speaks through the curtains to someone behind them. 

THE ARCHDEACON. Once for all, Ermyntrude, I cannot 
afford to maintain you in your present extravagance. [He 
goes to a flight of steps leading to the stalls and sits down disconso- 
lately on the top step. A fashionably dressed lady comes through 
the curtains and contemplates him with patient obstinacy. He 
continues, grumbling An English clergyman's daughter 
should be able to live quite respectably and comfortably on 
an allowance of 150 a year, wrung with great difficulty 
from the domestic budget. 

ERMYNTRUDE. You are not a common clergyman: you 
are an archdeacon. 

THE ARCHDEACON [angrily] That does not affect my 
emoluments to the extent of enabling me to support a 
daughter whose extravagance would disgrace a royal per- 
sonage. [Scrambling to his feet and scolding at her] What do 
you mean by it, Miss? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Oh really, father! Miss ! Is that the way to 
talk to a widow? 

THE ARCHDEACON. Is that the way to talk to a father ? Your 
marriage was a most disastrous imprudence. It gave you 
habits that are absolutely beyond your means I mean be- 
yond my means: you have no means. Why did you not 
marry Matthews: the best curate I ever had? 

ERMYNTRUDE* I wanted to; and you wouldnt let me. You 
insisted on my marrying Roosenhonkers-Pipstein. 

THE ARCHDEACON. I had to do the best for you, my child 
Roosenhonkers-Pipstein was a millionaire. 

ERMYNTRUDE. How did you know he was a millionaire? 

THE ARCHDEACON. He came from America. Of course he 
was a millionaire. Besides, he proved to my solicitors that he 
had fifteen million dollars when you married him. 

ERMYNTRUDE. His solicitors proved to me that he had 
sixteen millions when he died. He was a millionaire to the 




THE ARCHDEACON. O Mammon, Mammon! I am pun- 
ished now for bowing the knee to him. Is there nothing left 
of your settlement? Fifty thousand dollars a year it secured 
to you, as we all thought. Only half the securities could be 
called speculative. The other half were gilt-edged. What 
has become of it all? 

ERMYNTRUDE. The speculative ones were not paid up; 
and the gilt-edged ones just paid the calls on them until the 
whole show burst up. 

THE ARCHDEACON. Ermyntrude: what expressions! 

ERMYNTRUDE. Oh bother! If you had lost ten thousand a 
year what expressions would you use, do you think? The 
long and the short of it is that I cant live in the squalid way 
you are accustomed to. 


ERMYNTRUDE. I have formed habits of comfort. 


ERMYNTRUDE. Well, elegance if you like. Luxury, if 
you insist. Call it what you please. A house that costs less 
than a hundred thousand dollars a year to run is intolerable 

THE ARCHDEACON. Then, my dear, you had better be- 
come lady's maid to a princess until you can find another 
millionaire to marry you. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Thats an idea. I will [She vanishes through 
the curtains]. 

THE ARCHDEACON. What! Come back, Miss. Come back 
this instant. [The lights are lowered]. Oh, very well: I have 
nothing more to say. [He descends the steps into the auditorium 
and makes for the door, grumbling all the time]. Insane, sense- 
less extravagance! [Barking] Worthlessness!! [Muttering] J 
will not bear it any longer. Dresses, hats, furs, gloves, motor 
rides: one bill after another: money going like water. No 
restraint, no self-control, no decency. [Shrieking I say, no 
decency! [Muttering again] Nice state of things we are com- 
ing to ! A pretty world ! But I simply will not bear it. She can 


do as she likes. I wash my hands of her: I am not going to 
die in the workhouse for any good-for-nothing, undutiful, 
spendthrift daughter; and the sooner that is understood by 
everybody the better for all par [He is by this time out of 
hearing in the corridor]. 



AfOTEL sitting room. A table in the centre. On it a 
telephone. Two chairs at it, opposite one another. Behind 
it, the door. The fireplace has a mirror in the mantel- 

A spinster Princess, hatted and gloved, is ushered in by the 
Hotel Manager, spruce and artificially bland by professional 
habit, but treating his customer with a condescending affability 
which sails very close to the east wind of insolence. 

THE MANAGER. I am sorry I am unable to accommodate 
Your Highness on the first floor. 

THE PRINCESS [very shy and nervous] Oh please dont 
mention it. This is quite nice. Very nice. Thank you very 

THE MANAGER. We could prepare a room in the annexe 

THE PRINCESS. Oh no. This will do very well. 

She takes of her gloves and hat; puts them on the table; and 
.sits down. 

THE MANAGER. The rooms are quite as good up here. 
There is less noise; and there is the lift. If your Highness 
desires anything, there is the telephone 

THE PRINCESS. Oh, thank you, I dont want anything. The 
telephone is so difficult: I am not accustomed to it. 

THE MANAGER. Can I take any order? Some tea? 

THE PRINCESS.^, thank you. Yes: I should like some 
tea, if I might if it would not be too much trouble. 

He goes out. The telephone rings. The Princess starts out of 
her chair, terrified, and recoils as far as possible from the instru- 

THE PRINCESS. Oh dear! [// rings again. She looks scared. 
It rings again. She approaches it timidly. It rings again. She 
retreats hastily. It rings repeatedly. She runs to it in desperation 
and puts the receiver to her ear}. Who is there ? What do I do ? 
I am not used to the telephone: I dont know how What! 
Oh, I can hear you speaking quite distinctly. [She sits down, 
delighted, and settles herself for a conversation}. How wonder- 
ful! What! A lady? Oh! a person. Oh yes: I know. Yes, 


please, send her up. Have my servants finished their lunch 
yet? Oh no: please dont disturb them: I'd rather not. It 
doesnt matter. Thank you. What? Oh yes, it's quite easy. I 
had no idea am I to hang it up just as it was? Thank you. 
[She hangs it up]. 

Ermyntrude enters, presenting a plain and staid appearance 
in a long straight waterproof with a hood over her head gear. 
She comes to the end of the table opposite to that at which the 
Princess is seated. 

THE PRINCESS. Excuse me. I have been talking through 
the telephone; and I heard quite well, though I have never 
ventured before. Wont you sit down ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. No, thank you, Your Highness. I am only 
a lady's maid. I understood you wanted one. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh no: you mustnt think I want one. It's 
so unpatriotic to want anything now, on account of the war, 
you know. I sent my maid away as a public duty; and now 
she has married a soldier and is expecting a war baby. But I 
dont know how to do without her. Ive tried my very best; 
but somehow it doesnt answer: everybody cheats me; and 
in the end it isnt any saving. So Ive made up my mind to sell 
my piano and have a maid. That will be a real saving, because 
I really dont care a bit for music, though of course one has to 
pretend to. Dont you think so? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Certainly I do, Your Highness. Nothing 
could be more correct. Saving and self-denial both at once; 
and an act of kindness to me, as I am out of place. 

THE PRINCESS. Fm so glad you see it in that way. Er 
you wont mind my asking, will you? how did you lose 
your place? 

ERMYNTRUDE. The war, Your Highness, the war. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh yes, of course. But how 

ERMYNTRUDE [taking out her handkerchief and shewing 
signs ofgrief\ My poor mistress 

THE PRINCESS. Oh p 1 e a s e say no more. Dont think about 
it. So tactless of me to mention it. 

ERMYNTRUDE [mastering her emotion and smiling through 



her tears] Your Highness is too good. 

THE PRINCESS. Do you think you could be happy with 
me? I attach such importance to that. 

ERMYNTRUDE [gushing] Oh, I know I shall. 

THE PRINCESS. You must not expect too much. There is 
my uncle. He is very severe and hasty; and he is my guardian. 
I once had a maid I liked very much; but he sent her away 
the very first time. 

ERMYNTRUDE. The first time of what, Your Highness? 

THE PRINCESS. Oh, something she did. I am sure she had 
never done it before; and I k n o w she would never have done 
it again, she was so truly contrite and nice about it. 

ERMYNTRUDE. About what, Your Highness? 

THE PRINCESS. Well, she wore my jewels and one of my 
dresses at a rather improper ball with her young man; and 
my uncle saw her. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Then he was at the ball too, Your High- 

THE PRINCESS \struck by the inference^ I suppose he must 
have been. I wonder! You know, it's very sharp of you to 
find that out. I hope you are not too sharp. 

ERMYNTRUDE. A lady's maid has to be. Your Highness. 
{She produces some letters]. Your Highness wishes to see my 
testimonials, no doubt. I have one from an Archdeacon. [She 
proffers the letters]. 

THE PRINCESS [taking them] Do archdeacons have maids? 
How curious ! 

ERMYNTRUDE. No, Your Highness. They have daughters. 
I have first-rate testimonials from the Archdeacon and from 
his daughter. 

THE PRINCESS [reading them] The daughter says you are 
in every respect a treasure. The Archdeacon says he would 
have kept you if he could possibly have afforded it. Most 
satisfactory, I'm sure. 

ERMYNTRUDE. May I regard myself as engaged then, 
Your Highness ? 

THE PRINCESS [alarmed] Oh, I'm sure I dont know. If 
1 02 

you like, of course; but do you think I ought to? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Naturally I think Your Highness ought 
to, most decidedly. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh well, if you think that, I daresay youre 
quite right. Youll excuse my mentioning it, I hope; but 
what wages er ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. The same as the maid who went to the 
ball. Your Highness need not make any change. 

THE PRINCESS. M'yes. Of course she began with less. 
But she had such a number of relatives to keep! It was quite 
heartbreaking: I had to raise her wages again and again. 

ERMYNTRUDE. I shall be quite content with what she 
began on; and I have no relatives dependent on me. And I 
am willing to wear my own dresses at balls. 

THE PRINCESS. I am sure nothing could be fairer than 
that. My uncle cant object to that: can he? 

ERMYNTRUDE. If he does, Your Highness, ask him to 
speak to me about it. I shall regard it as part of my duties to 
speak to your uncle about matters of business. 

THE PRINCESS. Would you? You must be frightfully 

ERMYNTRUDE. May I regard myself as engaged. Your 
Highness? I should like to set about my duties immediately. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh yes, I think so. Oh certainly. I 

A waiter comes in with the tea. He places the tray on the table. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh, thank you. 

ERMYNTRUDE [raising the cover from the tea cake and look- 
ing at if] How long has that been standing at the top of the 

THE PRINCESS [terrified] Oh please! It doesnt matter. 

THE WAITER. It has not been waiting. Straight from the 
kitchen, madam, believe me. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Send the manager here. 

THE WAITER. The manager! What do you want with the 

ERMYNTRUDE. He will tell you when I have done with 
him. How dare you treat Her Highness in this disgraceful 


manner ? What sort of pothouse is this? Where did you learn 
to speak to persons of quality ? Take away your cold tea and 
cold cake instantly. Give them to the chambermaid you 
were flirting with whilst Her Highness was waiting. Order 
some fresh tea at once; and do not presume to bring it your- 
self: have it brought by a civil waiter who is accustomed to 
wait on ladies, and not, like you, on commercial travellers. 

THE WAITER. Alas, madam, I am not accustomed to wait 
on anybody. Two years ago I was an eminent medical man. 
My waiting-room was crowded with the flower of the 
aristocracy and the higher bourgeoisie from nine to six 
every day. But the war came; and my patients were ordered 
to give up their luxuries. They gave up their doctors, but 
kept their week-end hotels, closing every career to me except 
the career of a waiter. [He puts his fingers on the teapot to test 
its temperature, and automatically takes out his watch with the 
other hand as if to count the teapot 9 s pulse]. You are right: the 
tea i s cold: it was made by the wife of a once fashionable 
architect. The cake is only half toasted: what can you expect 
from a ruined west-end tailor whose attempt to establish a 
second-hand business failed last Tuesday week? Have you 
the heart to complain to the manager ? Have we not suffered 
enough? Are our miseries nev [the manager enters] Oh 
Lord! here he is. [The waiter withdraws abjectly, taking the 
tea tray with him]. 

THE MANAGER. Pardon. Your Highness; but I have re- 
ceived an urgent inquiry for rooms from an English family 
of importance; and I venture to ask you to let me know how 
long you intend to honor us with your presence. 

THE PRINCESS \risinganxiously] Oh! am I in the way? 

ERMYNTRUDE [sternly] Sit down, madam. [The Princess 
sits down forlornly. Ermyntrude turns imperiously to the Mana- 
ger]. Her Highness will require this room for twenty 

THE MANAGER. Twenty minutes! 

ERMYNTRUDE. Yes: it will take fully that time to find a 
proper apartment in a respectable hotel. 


THE MANAGER. I do not understand. 

ERMYNTRUDE. You understand perfecdy. How dare you 
offer Her Highness a room on the second floor? 

THE MANAGER. But I have explained. The first floor is 
occupied. At least 

ERMYNTRUDE. Well ? At least ? 

THE MANAGER. It is Occupied. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Dont you dare tell Her Highness a false- 
hood. It is not occupied. You are saving it up for the arrival 
of the five fifteen express, from which you hope to pick up 
some fat armaments contractor who will drink all the bad 
champagne in your cellar at 25 francs a bottle, and pay twice 
over for everything because he is in the same hotel with Her 
Highness, and can boast of having turned her out of the best 

THE MANAGER. But Her Highness was so gracious. I did 
not know that Her Highness was at all particular. 

ERMYNTRUDE. And you take advantage of Her High- 
ness's graciousness. You impose on her with your stories. 
You give her a room not fit for a dog. You send cold tea to 
her by a decayed professional person disguised as a waiter. 
But dont think you can trifle with me. I am a lady's maid; 
and I know the ladies' maids and valets of all the aristo- 
cracies of Europe and all the millionaires of America. When 
I expose your hotel as the second-rate little hole it is, not a 
soul above the rank of a curate with a large family will be 
seen entering it. I shake its dust off my feet. Order the 
luggage to be taken down at once. 

THE MANAGER [appealing to the Princess] Can Your High- 
ness believe this of me? Have I had the misfortune to offend 
Your Highness? 

THE PRINCESS. Oh no. I am quite satisfied. Please 

ERMYNTRUDE. Is Your Highness dissatisfied with m e? 

THE PRINCESS [intimidated\ Oh no: please dont think 
that. I only meant 

ERMYNTRUDE [to the Manager] You hear. Perhaps you 
think Her Highness is going to do the work of teaching you 



your place herself, instead of leaving it to her maid. 

THE MANAGER. Oh please, mademoiselle. Believe me: 
our only wish is to make you perfectly comfortable. But in 
consequence of the war, all royal personages now practise a 
rigid economy, and desire us to treat them like their poorest 

THE PRINCESS. Oh yes, You are quite right 

ERMYNTRUDE [interrupting There! Her Highness for- 
gives you; but dont do it again. Now go downstairs, my 
good man, and get that suite on the first floor ready for us. 
And send some proper tea. And turn on the heating appara- 
tus until the temperature in the rooms is comfortably warm. 
And have hot water put in all the bedrooms 

THE MANAGER. There are basins with hot and cold taps. 

ERMYNTRUDE [scornfully] Yes: there would be. I sup- 
pose we must put up with that: sinks in our rooms, and pipes 
that rattle and bang and guggle all over the house whenever 
anyone washes his hands. I know. 

THE MANAGER [gallant] You are hard to please, made- 

ERMYNTRUDE. No harder than other people. But when 
I'm not pleased I'm not too ladylike to say so. Thats all the 
difference. There is nothing more, thank you. 

The Manager shrugs his shoulders resignedly f ; makes a deep 
bow to the Princess; goes to the door; wafts a kiss surreptitiously 
to Ermyntrude; and goes out. 

THE PRINCESS. It's wonderful! How have you the cour- 

ERMYNTRUDE. In Your Highness's service I know no 
fear. Your Highness can leave all unpleasant people to me. 

THE PRINCESS. How I wish I could! The most dreadful 
thing of all I have to go through myself. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Dare I ask what it is, Your Highness ? 

THE PRINCESS. I'm going to be married. I'm to be met 
here and married to a man I never saw. A boy! A boy who 
never saw m e ! One of the sons of the Inca of Pemsalem. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Indeed? Which son? 


THE PRINCESS. I dont know. They havnt settled which. 
It's a dreadful thing to be a princess: they just marry you 
to anyone they like. The Inca is to come and look at me, and 
pick out whichever of his sons he thinks will suit. And then 
I shall be an alien enemy everywhere except in Perusalem, 
because the Inca has made war on everybody. And I shall 
have to pretend that everybody has made war on him. It's 
too bad. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Still, a husband is a husband. I wish I had 

THE PRINCESS. Oh, how can you say that! Fm afraid 
youre not a nice woman. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Your Highness is provided for. I'm not. 

THE PRINCESS. Even if you could bear to let a man touch 
you, you shouldnt say so. 

ERMYNTRUDE. I shall not say so again, Your Highness, 
except perhaps to the man. 

THE PRINCESS. It's too dreadful to think of. I wonder you 
can be so coarse. I really dont think youll suit. I feel sure 
now that you know more about men than you should. 

ERMYNTRUDE. I am a widow, Your Highness. 

THE PRINCESS [overwhelmed] Oh, I BEG your pardon. 
Of course I ought to have known you would not have spoken 
like that if you were not married. That makes it all right> 
doesnt it? I'm so sorry. 

The Manager returns, white, scared, hardly able to speak. 

THE MANAGER. Your Highness: an officer asks to see you 
on behalf of the Inca of Perusalem. 

THE PRINCESS [rising distractedly} Oh, I cant, really. Oh, 
what shall I do? 

THE MANAGER. On important business, he says, Your 
Highness. Captain Duval. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Duval! Nonsense! The usual thing. It is 
the Inca himself, incognito. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh, send him away. Oh, I'm so afraid of 
the Inca. I'm not properly dressed to receive him; and he is 
so particular: he would order me to stay in my room for a 



week. Tell him to call tomorrow: say I'm ill in bed. I cant: I 
wont: I darent: you must get rid of him somehow. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Leave him to me, Your Highness. 

THE PRINCESS. Youd never dare! 

ERMYNTRUDE. I am an Englishwoman, Your Highness, 
and perfectly capable of tackling ten Incas if necessary. I 
will arrange the matter. [To the Manager] Shew Her High- 
ness to her bedroom; and then shew Captain Duval in here. 

THE PRINCESS. Oh thank you so much. [She goes to the 
door. Ermyntrude, noticing that she has left her hat and gloves on 
the table, runs after her with them]. Oh, thank you. And oh, 
please, if I must have one of his sons, I should like a fair one 
that doesnt shave, with soft hair and a beard. I couldnt bear 
being kissed by a bristly person. [She runs out, the Manager 
bowing as she passes. He follows her]. 

Ermyntrude whips of her waterproof; hides it; and gets her- 
self swiftly into perfect trim at the mirror, before the Manager, 
with a large jewel case in his hand, returns, ushering in the Inca. 

THE MANAGER. Captain Duval. 

The Inca, in military uniform, advances with a marked and 
imposing stage walk; stops; orders the trembling Manager by a 
gesture to place the jewel case on the table, dismisses him with a 
frown; touches his helmet graciously to Ermyntrude; and takes 
ojf his cloak. 

THE INCA. I beg you, madam, to be quite at your ease, 
and to speak to me without ceremony, 

ERMYNTRUDE [moving haughtily and carelessly to the table] 
I hadnt the slightest intention of treating you with cere- 
mony. [She sits down: a liberty > which gives him a perceptible 
shock]. I am quite at a loss to imagine why I should treat a 
perfect stranger named Duval : a captain ! almost a subaltern ! 
with the smallest ceremony. 

THE INCA. That is true. I had for the moment forgotten 
my position. 

ERMYNTRUDE. It doesnt matter. You may sit down. 

THE INCA {frowning] What! 

ERMYNTRUDE. I said, you . . . may ... sit ... down. 
1 08 


THE INCA. Oh. [His moustache droops. He sits down]. 

ERMYNTRUDE. What is your business? 

THE INCA. I come on behalf of the Inca of Perusalem. 

ERMYNTRUDE. The Allerhochst? 

THE INCA. Precisely. 

ERMYNTRUDE. I wonder does he feel ridiculous when 
people call him the Allerhochst. 

THE INCA [surprised] Why should he? He is the Aller- 

ERMYNTRUDE. Is he nice looking? 

THE INCA. I er. Er 1. 1 er. I am not a good judge. 

ERMYNTRUDE. They say he takes himself very seriously. 

THE INCA. Why should he not, madam? Providence has 
entrusted to his family the care of a mighty empire. He is in 
a position of half divine, half paternal responsibility towards 
sixty millions of people, whose duty it is to die for him at the 
word of command. To take himself otherwise than seriously 
would be blasphemous. It is a punishable offence severely 
punishable in Perusalem. It is called Incadisparagement* 

ERMYNTRUDE. How cheerful ! Can he laugh ? 

THE INCA. Certainly, madam. [He laughs, harshly and 
mirthlessly]* Ha ha! Ha ha ha! 

ERMYNTRUDE {frigidly} I asked could the Inca laugh. I 
did not ask could you laugh. 

THE INCA. That is true, madam. {Chuckling Devilish 
amusing, that ! [He laughs, genially and sincerely, and becomes 
a much more agreeable person]. Pardon me: I am now laugh- 
ing because I cannot help it. I am amused. The other was 
merely an imitation: a failure, I admit. 

ERMYNTRUDE. You intimated that you had some busi- 

THE INCA {producing a very large jewel case, and relapsing 
into solemnity\ I am instructed by the Allerhochst to take a 
careful note of your features and figure, and, if I consider 
them satisfactory, to present you with this trifling token of 
His Imperial Majesty's regard. I do consider them satis- 
factory. Allow me [he opens the jewel case and presents it] \ 


ERMYNTRUDE [staring at the contents] What awful taste he 
must have! I cant wear that. 

THE INCA [reddening Take care, madam! This brooch 
was designed by the Inca himself. Allow me to explain the 
design. In the centre, the shield of Arminius. The ten sur- 
rounding medallions represent the ten castles of His M&- 
jesty. The rim is a piece of the telephone cable laid by His 
Majesty across the Shipskeel canal. The pin is a model in 
miniature of the sword of Henry the Birdcatcher. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Miniature! It must be bigger than the 
original. My good man, you dont expect me to wear this 
round my neck: it's as big as a turtle. [He shuts the case with 
an angry snap]. How much did it cost? 

THE INCA. For materials and manufacture alone, half a 
million Perusalem dollars, madam. The Inca's design con- 
stitutes it a work of art. As such, it is now worth probably 
ten million dollars. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Give it to me [she snatches it]. I'll pawn it 
and buy something nice with the money. 

THE INCA. Impossible, madam. A design by the Inca 
must not be exhibited for sale in the shop window of a pawn- 
broker. [He flings himself into his chair y fuming\. 

ERMYNTRUDE. So much the better. The Inca will have to 
redeem it to save himself from that disgrace; and the poor 
pawnbroker will get his money back. Nobody would buy it, 
you know. 

THE INCA. May I ask why ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Well, look at it! Just look at it! I ask you! 

THE INCA [his moustache drooping ominously] I am sorry to 
have to report to the Inca that you have no soul for fine art. 
[He rises sulkily]. The position of daughter-in-law to the 
Inca is not compatible with the tastes of a pig. [He attempts to 
take back the brooch]. 

ERMYNTRUDE [rising and retreating behind her chair with 
the brooch] Here ! you let that brooch done. You presented it 
to me on behalf of the Inca. It is mine. You said my appear- 
ance was satisfactory, 


THE INCA, Your appearance is not satisfactory. The Inca 
would not allow his son to marry you if the boy were on a 
desert island and you were the only other human being on 
it [he strides up the room]. 

ERMYNTRUDE [calmly sittingdown andreplacingthe case on 
the table] How could he? There would be no clergyman to 
marry us. It would have to be quite morganatic. 

THE INCA [returning Such an expression is out of place 
in the mouth of a princess aspiring to the highest destiny on 
earth. You have the morals of a dragoon. [She receives this 
with a shriek of laughter. He struggles with his sense of humor]. 
At the same time [he sits down] there is a certain coarse fun 
in the idea which compels me to smile [he turns up his mous- 
tache and smiles] . 

ERMYNTRUDE. When I marry the Inca's son, Captain, I 
shall make the Inca order you to cut off that moustache. It is 
too irresistible. Doesn t it fascinate everyone in Perusalem ? 

THE INCA [leaning forward to her energetically] By all the 
thunders of Thor, madam, it fascinates the whole world. 

ERMYNTRUDE. What I like about you, Captain Duval, is 
your modesty. 

THE INCA [straightening up suddenly] Woman: do not be 
a fool. 

ERMYNTRUDE [indignant] Well! 

THE INCA. You must look facts in the face. This mous- 
tache is an exact copy of the Inca's moustache. Well, does 
the world occupy itself with the Inca's moustache or does it 
not? Does it ever occupy itself with anything else? If that is 
the truth, does its recognition constitute the Inca a cox- 
comb? Other potentates have moustaches: even beards and 
moustaches. Does the world occupy itself with those beards 
and moustaches ? Do the hawkers in the streets of every cap- 
ital on the civilized globe sell ingenious cardboard repre- 
sentations of t h e i r faces on which, at the pulling of a simple 
string, the moustaches turn up and down, so [he makes his 
moustache turn up and down several times\ ? No ! I say No. The 
Inca's moustache is so watched and studied that it has made 



his face the political barometer of the whole continent. When 
that moustache goes up, culture rises with it. Not what you 
call culture; but Kultur, a word so much more significant 
that I hardly understand it myself except when I am in speci- 
ally good form. When it goes down, millions of men perish. 

ERMYNTRUDE. You know, if I had a moustache like that, 
it would turn my head. I should go mad. Are you quite sure 
the Inca isnt mad? 

THE INCA. How can he be mad, madam? What is sanity? 
The condition of the Inca's mind. What is madness? The 
condition of the people who disagree with the Inca. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Then I am a lunatic because I dont like 
that ridiculous brooch. 

THE INCA. No, madam: you are only an idiot. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Thank you. 

THE INCA. Mark you: it is not to be expected that you 
should see eye to eye with the Inca. That would be pre- 
sumption. It is for you to accept without question or demur 
the assurance of your Inca that the brooch is a masterpiece. 

ERMYNTRUDE. My Inca! Oh, come! I like that. He is not 
my Inca yet. 

THE INCA. He is everybody's Inca, madam. His realm 
will yet extend to the confines of the habitable earth. It is his 
divine right; and let those who dispute it look to themselves. 
Properly speaking, all those who are now trying to shake his 
world predominance are not at war with him, but in rebel- 
lion against him. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Well, he started it, you know. 

THE INCA. Madam, be just. When the hunters surround 
the lion, the lion will spring. The Inca had kept the peace 
for years. Those who attacked him were steeped in blood, 
black blood, white blood, brown blood, yellow blood, blue 
blood. The Inca had never shed a drop- 

ERMYNTRUDE. He had only talked. 

THE INCA. Only talked! Only talked! What is more 
glorious than talk? Can anyone in the world talk like him? 
Madam: when he signed the declaration of war, he said to 



his foolish generals and admirals, 'Gentlemen: you will all 
be sorry for this/ And they are. They know now that they 
had better have relied on the sword of the spirit: in other 
words, on their Inca's talk, than on their murderous can- 
nons- The world will one day do justice to the Inca as the 
man who kept the peace with nothing but his tongue and his 
moustache. While he talked: talked just as I am talking now 
to you, simply, quietly, sensibly, but GREATLY, there 
was peace; there was prosperity; Perusalem went from suc- 
cess^ to success. He has been silenced for a year by the roar of 
trinitrotoluene and the bluster of fools; and the world is in 
ruins. What a tragedy! [He is convulsed with grief]. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Captain Duval : I dont want to be unsym- 
pathetic; but suppose we get back to business. 

THE INCA. Business ! What business ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Well, m y business. You want me to marry 
one of the Inca's sons: I forget which. 

THE INCA. As far as I can recollect the name, it is His 
Imperial Highness Prince Eitel William Frederick George 
Franz Josef Alexander Nicholas Victor Emmanuel Albert 
Theodore Wilson 

ERMYNTRUDE [interrupting Oh, please, please, maynt I 
have one with a shorter name ? What is he called at home ? 

THE INCA. He is usually called Sonny, madam. [With 
great charm of manner] But you will please understand that 
the Inca has no desire to pin you to any particular son. There 
is Chips and Spots and Lulu and Pongo and the Corsair and 
the Piffler and Jack Johnson the Second, all unmarried- At 
least not seriously married: nothing, in short, that cannot be 
arranged. They are ail at your service. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Are they all as clever and charming as 
their father? 

THE INCA [lifts his eyebrows pityingly; shrugs his shoulders; 
then, with indulgent paternal contempt] Excellent lads, madam. 
Very honest affectionate creatures. I have nothing against 
them. Pongo imitates farmyard sounds cock-crowing and 
that sort of thing extremely well. Lulu plays Strauss's 


Sinfonia Domestica on the mouth organ really screamingly. 
Chips keeps owls and rabbits. Spots motor bicycles. The 
Corsair commands canal barges and steers them himself. 
The Piffler writes plays, and paints most abominably. Jack 
Johnson trims ladies' hats, and boxes with professionals 
hired for that purpose. He is invariably victorious. Yes: 
they all have their different little talents. And also, of course, 
their family resemblances. For example, they all smoke; 
they all quarrel with one another; and they none of them 
appreciate their father, who, by the way, is no mean painter, 
though the PifHer pretends to ridicule his efforts. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Quite a large choice, eh? 

THE INCA. But very little to choose, believe me. I should 
not recommend Pongo, because he snores so frightfully that 
it has been necessary to build him a sound-proof bedroom: 
otherwise the royal family would get no sleep. But any of the 
others would suit equally well if you are really bent on 
marrying one of them. 

ERMYNTRUDE. If! What is this? I never wanted to marry 
one of them. I thought you wanted me to. 

THE INCA. I did, madam; but [confidentially, flattering her] 
you are not quite the sort of person I expected you to be; and 
I doubt whether any of these young degenerates would make 
you happy. I trust I am not shewing any want of natural 
feeling when I say that from the point of view of a lively, 
accomplished, and beautiful woman [Ermyntrude bows] they 
might pall after a time. I suggest that you might prefer the 
Inca himself. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Oh, Captain, how could a humble person 
like myself be of any interest to a prince who is surrounded 
with the ablest and most far-reaching intellects in the world ? 

THE INCA [explosively] What on earth are you talking 
about, madam ? Can you name a single man in the entourage 
of the Inca who is not a born fool ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Oh, how can you say that! There is Ad- 
miral von Cockpits 

THE INCA [rising intolerantly and striding about the room] 


Von Cockpits! Madam: if Von Cockpits ever goes to 
heaven, before three weeks are over, the Angel Gabriel will 
be at war with the man in the moon. 

ERMYNTRUDE. But General Von Schinkenburg 

THE INCA. Schinkenburg! I grant you, Schinkenburg has 
a genius for defending market gardens. Among market 
gardens he is invincible. But what is the good of that? The 
world does not consist of market gardens. Turn him loose in 
pasture and he is lost. The Inca has defeated all these gen- 
erals again and again at manoeuvres; and yet he has to give 
place to them in the field because he would be blamed for 
every disaster accused of sacrificing the country to his 
vanity. Vanity! Why do they call him vain ? Just because he 
is one of the few men who are not afraid to live. Why do they 
call themselves brave? Because they have not sense enough 
to be afraid to die. Within the last year the world has pro- 
duced millions of heroes. Has it produced more than one 
Inca? [He resumes his seat]. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Fortunately not, Captain. Fdrather marry 

THE INCA [making a wry face] Chips! Oh no: I wouldnt 
marry Chips. 


THE INCA [whispering the secret] Chips talks too much 
about himself. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Well, what about Snooks? 

THE INCA. Snooks? Who is he? Have I a son named 
Snooks? There are so many [wearily] so many that I 
often forget. [Casually] But I wouldnt marry him, anyhow, 
if I were you. 

ERMYNTRUDE. But hasnt any of them inherited the family 
genius ? Surely, if Providence has entrusted them with the 
care of Perusalem if they are all descended from Bedrock 
the Great 

THE INCA [interrupting her impatiently] Madam: if you 
ask me, I consider Bedrock a grossly overrated monarch. 

ERMYNTRUDE [shocked] Oh, Captain! Take care! Inca- 



THE INCA. I repeat, grossly overrated. Strictly between 
ourselves, I do not believe all this about Providence entrust- 
ing the care of sixty million human beings to the abilities of 
Chips and the Piffler and Jack Johnson. I believe in in- 
dividual genius. That is the Inca's secret. It must be. Why, 
hang it all, madam, if it were a mere family matter, the Inca's 
uncle would have been as great a man as the Inca. And 
well, everybody knows what the Inca's uncle was. 

ERMYNTRTJDE. My experience is that the relatives of men 
of genius are always the greatest duffers imaginable. 

THE INCA. Precisely. That is what proves that the Inca is 
a man of genius. His relatives are duffers. 

ERMYNTRUDE. But bless my soul, Captain, if all the Inca's 
generals are incapables, and all his relatives duffers, Peru- 
salem will be beaten in the war; and then it will become a 
republic, like France after 1871, and the Inca will be sent to 
St Helena. 

THE INCA [triumphantly] That is just what the Inca is 
playing for, madam. It is why he consented to the war. 


THE INCA. Aha! The fools talk of crushing the Inca; but 
they little know their man. Tell me this. Why did St Helena 
extinguish Napoleon ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. I give it Up. 

THE INCA. Because, madam, with certain rather remark- 
able qualities, which I should be the last to deny, Napoleon 
lacked versatility. After all, any fool can be a soldier: we 
know that only too well in Perusalem, where every fool is a 
soldier. JBut the Inca has a thousand other resources. He is 
an architect. Well, St Helena presents an unlimited field to 
the architect. He is a painter: need I remind you that St 
Helena is still without a National Gallery? He is a composer: 
Napoleon left no symphonies in St Helena. Send the Inca to 
St Helena, madam, and the world will crowd thither to see 
his works as they crowd now to Athens to see the Acropolis, 
to Madrid to see the pictures of Velasquez, to Bayreuth to 


see the music dramas of that egotistical old rebel Richard 
Wagner, who ought to have been shot before he was forty, 
as indeed he very nearly was. Take this from me: hereditary 
monarchs are played out: the age for men of genius has 
come: the career is open to the talents: before ten years have 
elapsed every civilized country from the Carpathians to the 
Rocky Mountains will be a Republic. 

ERMYNTRUDE. Then goodbye to the Inca. 

THE INCA. On the contrary, madam, the Inca will then 
have his first real chance. He will be unanimously invited by 
those Republics to return from his exile and act as Super- 
president of all the republics. 

ERMYNTRUDE. But wont that be a come down for him? 
Think of it ! after being Inca, to be a mere President! 

THE INCA. Well, why not ! An Inca can do nothing. He is 
tied hand and foot. A constitutional monarch is openly called 
an india-rubber stamp. An emperor is a puppet. The Inca is 
not allowed to make a speech: he is compelled to take up a 
screed of flatulent twaddle written by some noodle of a min- 
ister and read it aloud. But look at the American President! 
He is the Allerhochst, if you like. No, madam, believe me, 
there is nothing like Democracy, American Democracy. 
Give the people voting papers: good long voting papers, 
American fashion; and while the people are reading the 
voting papers the Government does what it likes. 

ERMYNTRUDE. What! You too worship before the statue 
of Liberty, like the Americans? 

THE INCA. Not at all, madam. The Americans do not 
worship the statue of Liberty. They have erected it in the 
proper place for a statue of Liberty: on its tomb [he turns 
down his moustaches]. 

ERMYNTRUDE [laughing] Oh! Youd better not let them 
hear you say that. Captain. 

THE INCA. Quite safe, madam: they would take it as a 
joke. [He rises]. And now, prepare yourself for a surprise. 
[She rises]. A shock. Brace yourself. Steel yourself. And do 
not be afraid. 



ERMYNTRUDE. Whatever on earth can you be going to 
tell me, Captain ? 

THE INCA. Madam: I am no captain. I 

ERMYNTRUDE. You are the Inca in disguise. 

THE INCA. Good heavens! how do you know that? Who 
has betrayed me ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. How could I help divining it, Sir? Who is 
there in the world like you? Your magnetism 

THE INCA. True: I had forgotten my magnetism. But you 
know now that beneath the trappings of Imperial Majesty 
there is a Man: simple, frank, modest, unaffected, collo- 
quial: a sincere friend, a natural human being, a genial com- 
rade, one eminently calculated to make a woman happy. 
You, on the other hand, are the most charming woman I 
have ever met. Your conversation is wonderful. I have sat 
here almost in silence, listening to your shrewd and pene- 
trating account of my character, my motives, if I may say so, 
my talents. Never has such justice been done me: never 
have I experienced such perfect sympathy. Will you I 
hardly know how to put this will you be mine? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Oh, Sir, you are married. 

THE INCA. I am prepared to embrace the Mahometan 
faith, which allows a man four wives, if you will consent. It 
will please the Turks. But I had rather you did not mention 
it to the Inca-ess, if you dont mind. 

ERMYNTRUDE. This is really charming of you. But the 
time has come for me to make a revelation. It is your Im- 
perial Majesty's turn now to brace yourself. To steel your- 
self. I am not the princess. I am 

THE INCA. The daughter of my old friend Archdeacon 
Daffodil Donkin, whose sermons are read to me every even- 
ing after dinner. I never forget a face. 

ERMYNTRUDE. You knew all along! 

THE INCA [bitterly, throwing himself into his chair] And you 
supposed that I, who have been condemned to the society of 
princesses all my wretched life, believed for a moment that 
any princess that ever walked could have your intelligence ! 


ERMYNTRUDE. How clever of you, Sirl But you cannot 
afford to marry me. 

THE INCA [springing up] Why not ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. You are too poor. You have to eat war 
bread. Kings nowadays belong to the poorer classes. The 
King of England does not even allow himself wine at dinner. 

THE INCA [delighted\ Haw! Ha ha! Haw! haw! [he is con- 
vulsed with laughter, and finally has to relieve his feelings by 
waltzing half round the room] . 

ERMYNTRUDE. You may laugh, Sir; but I really could not 
live in that style. I am the widow of a millionaire, ruined by 
your little war. 

THE INCA. A millionaire! What are millionaires now, 
with the world crumbling? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Excuse me: mine was a hyphenated mil- 

THE INCA. A highfalutin millionaire, you mean. [Chuck- 
ling] Haw! ha ha! really very nearly a pun, that. [He sits 
down in her chair]. 

^ ERMYNTRUDE [revolted, sinking into his chair] I think it 
quite the worst pun I ever heard. 

THE INCA. The best puns have all been made years ago: 
nothing remained but to achieve the worst. However, 
madam [he rises majestically; andshe is about to rise also]. No : I 
prefer a seated audience [she falls back into her seat at the im- 
perious wave of his hand]. So [he clicks his heels]. Madam: I 
recognize my presumption in having sought the honor of 
your hand. As you say, I cannot afford it. Victorious as I am, 
I am hopelessly bankrupt; and the worst of it is, I am in- 
telligent enough to know it. And I shall be beaten in conse- 
quence, because my most implacable enemy, though only a 
few months further away from bankruptcy than myself, has 
not a ray of intelligence, and will go on fighting until civil- 
ization is destroyed, unless I, out of sheer pity for the world, 
condescend to capitulate. 

ERMYNTRUDE^ The sooner the better, Sir. Many fine 
young men are dying while you wait. 



chmgfainfully] Why? Why do they do it? 

ERMYNTRUDE. Because you make them, 

THE INCA. Stuff! How can I? I am only one man; and 
they are millions. Do you suppose they would really kill 
each other if they didnt want to, merely for the sake of my 
beautiful eyes? Do not be deceived by newspaper claptrap, 
madam. I was swept away by a passion not my own, which 
imposed itself on me. By myself I am nothing. I dare not 
walk down the principal street of my own capital in a coat 
two years old, though the sweeper of that street can wear 
one ten years old. You talk of death as an unpopular thing. 
You are wrong: for years I gave them art, literature, science, 
prosperity, that they might live more abundantly; and they 
hated me, ridiculed me, caricatured me. Now that I give 
them death in its frightfullest forms, they are devoted to me. 
If you doubt me, ask those who for years have begged our 
taxpayers in vain for a few paltry thousands to spend on Life : 
on the bodies and minds of the nation's children, on the 
beauty and healthfulness of its cities, on the honor and com- 
fort of its worn-outworkers. They refused; and because they 
refused, death is let loose on them. They grudged a few 
hundreds a year for their salvation: they now pay millions a 
day for their own destruction and damnation. And this they 
call my doing! Let them say it, if they dare, before the judg- 
ment-seat at which they and I shall answer at last for what 
we have left undone no less than for what we have done. 
[Putting himself together suddenly] Madam: I have the honor 
to be your most obedient [he clicks his heels and bows]. 

ERMYNTRUDE, Sir! [she curtsies]. 

^ THE INCA [turning at the door] Oh, by the way, there is a 
princess, isnt there, somewhere on the premises ? 

ERMYNTRUDE. There is. Shall I fetch her? 

THE INCA [dubious] Pretty awful, I suppose, eh? 

ERMYNTRUDE. About the usual thing. 
^ THE INCA [sighing] Ah well! What can one expect? I dont 
think I need trouble her personally. Will you explain to her 
about the boys? 


ERMYNTRUDE. I am afraid the explanation will fall rather 
flat without your magnetism. 

THE INCA [returning to her and speaking very humanly] You 
are making fun of me. Why does everybody make fun of 
me? Is it fair? 

ERMYNTRUDE [seriously] Yes: it is fair. What other de- 
fence have we poor common people against your shining 
armor, your mailed fist, your pomp and parade, your terrible 
power over us ? Are these things fair ? 

THE INCA. Ah, well, perhaps, perhaps. [He looks at his 
watch]. By the way, there is time for a drive round the town 
and a cup of tea at the Zoo. Quite a bearable band there: it 
does not play any patriotic airs. I am sorry you will not listen 
to any more permanent arrangement; but if you would care 
to come 

ERMYNTRUDE [eagerly] Ratherrrrrr. I shall be delighted. 

THE INCA [cautiously] In the strictest honor, you under- 

ERMYNTRUDE. Dont be afraid. I promise to refuse any in- 
correct proposals. 

THE INCA [enchanted\ Oh! Charming woman: how well 
you understand men ! 

He offers her his arm: they go out together. 





IT may surprise some people to learn that in 1915 this 
little play was a recruiting poster in disguise. The 
British officer seldom likes Irish soldiers; but he always 
tries to have a certain proportion of them in his battalion, 
because, partly from a want of common sense which leads 
them to value their lives less than Englishmen do (lives are 
really less worth living in a poor country), and partly be- 
cause even the most cowardly Irishman feels obliged to out- 
do an Englishman in bravery if possible, and at least to set 
a perilous pace for him, Irish soldiers give impetus to those 
military operations which require for their spirited execu- 
tion more devilment than prudence. 

Unfortunately, Irish recruiting was badly bungled in 
1915. The Irish were for the most part Roman Catholics 
and loyal Irishmen, which means that from the English 
point of view they were heretics and rebels. But they were 
willing enough to go soldiering on the side of France and 
see the world outside Ireland, which is a dull place to live in. 
It was quite easy to enlist them by approaching them from 
their own point of view. But the War Office insisted on ap- 
proaching them from the point of view of Dublin Castle. 
They were discouraged and repulsed by refusals to give 
commissions to Roman Catholic officers, or to allow distinct 
Irish units to be formed. To attract them, the walls were 
covered with placards headed REMEMBER BELGIUM. The 
folly of asking an Irishman to remember anything when you 
want him to fight for England was apparent to everyone out- 
side the Castle : FORGET AND FORGIVE would have been more 
to the point. Remembering Belgium and its broken treaty 
led Irishmen to remember Limerick and its broken treaty; 
and the recruiting ended in a rebellion, in suppressing 
which the British artillery quite unnecessarily reduced the 
centre of Dublin to ruins, and the British commanders killed 
their leading prisoners of war in cold blood morning after 
morning with an effect of long drawn out ferocity. Really it 
was only the usual childish petulance in which John Bull 
does things in a week that disgrace him for a century, though 


he soon recovers his good humor, and cannot understand 
why the survivors of his wrath do not feel as jolly with him 
as he does with them. On the smouldering ruins of Dublin 
the appeals to remember Louvain were presently supple- 
mented by a fresh appeal. IRISHMEN: DO YOU WISH TO HAVE 
AND HOMES ? Dublin laughed sourly. 

As for me, I addressed myself quite simply to the busi- 
ness of obtaining recruits. I knew by personal experience 
and observation what anyone might have inferred from the 
records of Irish emigration, that all an Irishman's hopes and 
ambitions turn on his opportunities of getting out of Ireland. 
Stimulate his loyalty, and he will stay in Ireland and die for 
her; for, incomprehensible as it seems to an Englishman, 
Irish patriotism does not take the form of devotion to Eng- 
land and England's king. Appeal to his discontent, his 
deadly boredom, his thwarted curiosity and desire for change 
and adventure, and, to escape from Ireland, he will go 
abroad to risk his life for France, for the Papal States, for 
secession in America, and even, if no better may be, for Eng- 
land. Knowing that the ignorance and insularity of the Irish- 
man is a danger to himself and to his neighbours, I had no 
scruple in making that appeal when there was something 
for him to fight which the whole world had to fight unless it 
meant to come under the jack boot of the German version of 
Dublin Castle. 

There was another consideration, unmentionable by the 
recruiting sergeants and war orators, which must neverthe- 
less have helped them powerfully in procuring soldiers by 
voluntary enlistment. The happy home of the idealist may 
become common under millennial conditions. It is not com- 
mon at present. No one will ever know how many men 
joined the army in 1914 and 1915 to escape from tyrants 
and taskmasters, termagants and shrews, none of whom are 
any the less irksome when they happen by ill-luck to be also 
our fathers, our mothers, our wives and our children. Even 
at their amiablest, a holiday from them may be a tempting 


change for all parties. That is why I did not endow 
herty V.C. with an ideal Irish colleen for his sweetheart, and 
gave him for his mother a Volumnia of the potato patch 
rather than an affectionate parent from whom he could not 
so easily have torn himself away. 

I need hardly say that a play thus carefully adapted to its 
purpose was voted utterly inadmissible; and in due course 
the British Government, frightened out of its wits for the 
moment by the rout of the Fifth Army, ordained Irish Con- 
scription, and then did not dare to go through with it. I still 
think my own line was the more businesslike. But during 
the war everyone except the soldiers at the front imagined 
that nothing but an extreme assertion of our most passionate 
prejudices, without the smallest regard to their effect on 
others, could win the war. Finally the British blockade won 
the war; but the wonder is that the British blockhead did not 
lose it. I suppose the enemy was no wiser. War is not a 
sharpener of wits; and I am afraid I gave great offence by 
keeping my head in this matter of Irish recruiting. What 
can I do but apologize, and publish the play now that it can 
no longer do any good? 



A the door of an Irish country house in a park. Fine 
summer weather: the summer of 1915. The porch y 
painted white, projects into the drive; but the door is at 
the side and the front has a window. The porch faces east; and 
the door is in the north side of it. On the south side is a tree in 
which a thrush is singing. Under the window is a garden seat 
with an iron chair at each end of it. 

The last four bars of God Save the King are heard in the dis- 
tance, followed by three cheers. Then the band strikes up Ifs a 
Long Way to Tipper ary and recedes until it is out of hearing. 

Private <y Flaherty V.C. comes wearily southward along 
the drive, and falls exhausted into the garden seat. The thrush 
utters a note of alarm and flies away. The tramp of a horse is 

A GENTLEMAN'S VOICE. Tim! Hi! Tim! [He is heard dis- 

A LABORER'S VOICE. Yes, your honor. 

THE GENTLEMAN'S VOICE. Take this horse to the stables, 
will you? 

A LABORER'S VOICE. Right, your honor. Yup there. Gwan 
now. Gwan. [The horse is led away]. 

General Sir Pearce Madigan y an elderly baronet in khaki y 
beaming with enthusiasm, arrives. 0* Flaherty rises and stands 
at attention. 

SIR PEARCE. No, no, O'Flaherty : none of that now. Youre 
off duty. Remember that though I am a general of forty 
years service, that little Cross of yours gives you a higher 
rank in the roll of glory than I can pretend to. 

O'FLAHERTY [relaxing I'm thankful to you, Sir Pearce; 
but I wouldnt have anyone think that the baronet of my 
native place would let a common soldier like me sit down in 
his presence without leave. 

SIR PEARCE. Well, youre not a common soldier, O'Fla- 
herty: youre a very uncommon one; and I'm proud to have 
you for my guest here today. 

O'FLAHERTY. Sure I know, sir. You have to put up with a 



lot from the like of me for the sake of the recruiting. All the 
quality shakes hands with me and says theyre proud to know 
me, just the way the king said when he pinned the Cross on 
me. And it's as true as I'm standing here, sir, the queen said 
to me "I hear you were born on the estate of General Madi- 
gan," she says; "and the General himself tells me you were 
always a fine young fellow." "Bedad, Mam/' I says to her, 
"if the General knew all the rabbits I snared on him, and all 
the salmon I snatched on him, and all the cows I milked on 
him, he'd think me the finest ornament for the county jail he 
ever sent there for poaching." 

SIR PEARCE [laughing] Youre welcome to them all, my lad. 
Come [he makes him sit down again on the garden seat] \ sit 
down and enjoy your holiday [he sits down on one of the iron 
chairs: the one at the doorless side of the porch]. 

O'FLAHERTY. Holiday, is it? I'd give five shillings to be 
back in the trenches for the sake of a little rest and quiet. I 
never knew what hard work was til I took to recruiting. 
What with the standing on my legs all day, and the shaking 
hands, and the making speeches, and whats worse the 
listening to them, and the calling for cheers for king and 
country, and the saluting the flag til I'm stiff with it, and the 
listening to them playing God Save the King and Tipperary, 
and the trying to make my eyes look moist like a man in a 
picture book, I'm that bet that I hardly get a wink of sleep. 
I give you my word, Sir Pearce, that I never heard the tune 
of Tipperary in my life til I came back from Flanders; and 
already it's drove me to that pitch of tiredness of it that when 
a poor little innocent slip of a boy in the street the other night 
drew himself up and saluted and began whistling it at me, I 
clouted his head for him, God forgive me. 

SIR PEARCE [soothingly] Yes, yes: I know. / know. One 
does get fed up with it: Ive been dog tired myself on parade 
many a time. But still, you know, theres a gratifying side to 
it, too. After all, he is our king; and it's our own country, 

O'FLAHERTY. Well, sir, to you that have an estate in it, it 


would feel like your country. But the divil a perch of it ever 
I owned. And as to the king, God help him, my mother 
would have taken the skin off my back if I'd ever let on to 
have any other king than Parnell. 

are you dreaming about, O'Flaherty ? A most loyal woman. 
Always most loyal. Whenever there is an illness in the Royal 
Family, she asks me every time we meet about the health of 
the patient as anxiously as if it were yourself, her only son. 

O'FLAHERTY. Well, she's my mother; and I wont utter a 
word agen her. But I'm not saying a word of lie when I tell 
you that old woman is the biggest kanatt from here to 
the cross of Monasterboice. Sure she's the wildest Fenian 
and rebel, and always has been, that ever taught a poor inno- 
cent lad like myself to pray night and morning to St Patrick 
to clear the English out of Ireland the same as he cleared the 
snakes. Youll be surprised at my telling you that now, maybe, 
Sir Pearce ? 

SIR PEARCE [unable to keep still, walking away from O 9 Fla- 
herty] Surprised! I'm more than surprised, O'Flaherty. I'm 
overwhelmed. [Turning and facing him} Are you are you 

O'FLAHERTY. If youd been brought up by my mother, sir> 
youd know better than to joke about her. What I'm telling 
you is the truth; and I wouldnt tell it to you if I could see my 
way to get out of the fix I'll be in when my mother comes 
here this day to see her boy in his glory, and she after think- 
ing all the time it was against the English I was fighting. 

SIR PEARCE. Do you mean to say you told her such a mon- 
strous falsehood as that you were fighting in the German 

O'FLAHERTY. I never told her one word that wasnt the 
truth and nothing but the truth. I told her I was going to 
fight for the French and for the Russians; and sure who ever 
heard of the French or the Russians doing anything to the 
English but fighting them? That was how it was, sir. And 
sure the poor woman kissed me and went about the house 



singing in her old cracky voice that the French was on the 
sea, and theyd be here without delay, and the Orange will 
decay, says the Shan Van Vocht. 

SIR PEARCE [sitting down again, exhausted by his feelings] 
Well, I never could have believed this. Never. What do you 
suppose will happen when she finds out ? 

O'FLAHERTY. She mustnt find out. It's not that she'd half 
kill me, as big as I am and as brave as I am. It's that I'm fond 
of her, and cant bring myself to break the heart in her. You 
may think it queer that a man should be fond of his mother, 
sir, and she having bet him from the time he could feel to 
the time she was too slow to ketch him; but I'm fond of her; 
and I'm not ashamed of it. Besides, didnt she win the Cross 

SIR PEARCE. Your mother! How? 

O'FLAHERTY. By bringing me up to be more afraid of run- 
ning away than of fighting. I was timid by nature; and when 
the other boys hurted me, I'd want to run away and cry. 
But she whaled me for disgracing the blood of the O'Fla- 
hertys until I'd have fought the divil himself sooner than 
face her after funking a fight. That was how I got to know 
that fighting was easier than it looked, and that the others 
was as much afeard of me as I was of them, and that if I only 
held out long enough theyd lose heart and give up. Thats 
the way I came to be so courageous. I tell you, Sir Pearce, if 
the German army had been brought up by my mother, the 
Kaiser would be dining in the banqueting hall at Bucking- 
ham Palace this day, and King George polishing his jack 
boots for him in the scullery. 

SIR PEARCE. But I dont like this, O'Flaherty. You cant go 
on deceiving your mother, you know. It's not right. 

O'FLAHERTY. Cant go on deceiving her, cant I ? It's little 
you know what a son's love can do, sir. Did you ever notice 
what a ready liar I am ? 

SIR PEARCE. Well, in recruiting a man gets carried away. 
I stretch it a bit occasionally myself. After all, it's for king 
and country. But if you wont mind my saying it, O'Flaherty, 


I think that story about your fighting the Kaiser and the 
twelve giants of the Prussian guard singlehanded would be 
the better for a little toning down. I dont ask you to drop it, 
you know; for it's popular, undoubtedly; but still, the truth 
is the truth. Dont you think it would fetch in almost as 
many recruits if you reduced the number of guardsmen to 

O'FLAHERTY. Youre not used to telling lies like I am, sir. 
I got great practice at home with my mother. What with 
saving my skin when I was young and thoughtless, and 
sparing her feelings when I was old enough to understand 
them, Ive hardly told my mother the truth twice a year since 
I was born; and would you have me turn round on her and 
tell it now, when she's looking to have some peace and quiet 
in her old age? 

SIR PEARCE [troubled in his conscience] Well, it's not my 
affair, of course, O'Flaherty. But hadnt you better talk to 
Father Quinlan about it ? 

O'FLAHERTY. Talk to Father Quinlan, is it! Do you know 
what Father Quinlan says to me this very morning? 

SIR PEARCE. Oh, youve seen him already, have you ? What 
did he say? 

O'FLAHERTY. He says "You know, dont you" he says 
"that it's your duty, as a Christian and a good son of the 
Holy Church, to love your enemies?" he says. "I know it's 
my juty as a soldier to kill them" I says. "Thats right, 
Dinny," he says: "quite right. But" says he "you can kill 
them and do them a good turn afterwards to shew your love 
for them" he says; "and it's your duty to have a mass said 
for the souls of the hundreds of Germans you say you killed'* 
says he; "for many and many of them were Bavarians and 
good Catholics" he says. "Is it me that must pay for masses 
for the souls of the Boshes?" I says. "Let the King of Eng- 
land pay for them" I says; "for it was his quarrel and not 


SIR PEARCE [warmly] It is the quarrel of every honest man 
and true patriot, O'Flaherty. Your mother must see that as 



clearly as I do. After all, she is a reasonable, well disposed 
woman, quite capable of understanding the right and the 
wrong of the war. Why cant you explain to her what the 
war is about? 

O'FLAHERTY. Arra, sir, how the divil do I know what the 
war is about? 

SIR PEARCE [rising again and standing over him] What! 
O'Flaherty : do you know what you are saying? You sit there 
wearing the Victoria Cross for having killed God knows how 
many Germans; and you tell me you dont know why you 
did it! 

O'FLAHERTY. Asking your pardon, Sir Pearce. I tell you 
no such thing. I know quite well why I kilt them. I kilt them 
because I was afeard that, if I didnt, theyd kill me. 

SIR PEARCE [giving if up and sitting down again] Yes, yes, 
of course; but have you no knowledge of the causes of the 
war? of the interests at stake? of the importance I may 
almost say in fact I will say the sacred rights for which 
we are fighting? Dont you read the papers ? 

O'FLAHERTY. I do when I can get them. Theres not many 
newsboys crying the evening paper in the trenches. They do 
say, Sir Pearce, that we shall never beat the Boshes until we 
make Horatio Bottomley Lord Leftnant of England. Do 
you think thats true, sir? 

SIR PEARCE. Rubbish, man! theres no Lord Lieutenant 
in England: the king is Lord Lieutenant. It's a simple ques- 
tion of patriotism. Does patriotism mean nothing to you? 

O'FLAHERTY. It means different to me than what it would 
to you, sir. It means England and England's king to you. To 
me and the like of me, it means talking about the English 
just the way the English papers talk about the Boshes. And 
what good has it ever done here in Ireland? It's kept me 
ignorant^ because it filled up my mother's mind, and she 
thought it ought to fill up mine too. It's kept Ireland poor, 
because instead of trying to better ourselves we thought we 
was the fine fellows of patriots when we were speaking evil 
of Englishmen that was as poor as ourselves and maybe as 


good as ourselves. The Boshes I kilt was more knowledg- 
able men than me: and what better am I now that Ive kilt 
them ? What better is anybody? 

SIR PEARCE [huffed, turning a cold shoulder to him] I am 
sorry the terrible experience of this war the greatest war 
ever fought has taught you no better, O 'Flaherty. 

O'FLAHERTY [preserving his dignity} I dont know about it's 
being a great war, sir. It's a big war; but thats not the same 
thing. Father Quinlan's new church is a big church: you 
might take the little old chapel out of the middle of it and 
not miss it. But my mother says there was more true religion 
in the old chapel. And the war has taught me that may be 
she was right. 

SIR PEARCE [grunts sulkily] \ \ 

O'FLAHERTY [respectfully but doggedly] And theres another 
thing it's taught me too, sir, that concerns you and me, if I 
may make bold to tell it to you. 

SIR PEARCE [still sulkily] I hope it's nothing you oughtnt 
to say to me, O'Flaherty. 

O'FLAHERTY. It's this, sir: that I'm able to sit here now 
and talk to you without humbugging you; and thats what 
not one of your tenants or your tenants' childer ever did to 
you before in all your long life. It's a true respect Fm shew- 
ing you at last, sir. Maybe youd rather have me humbug you 
and tell you lies as I used, just as the boys here, God help 
them, would rather have me tell them how I fought the 
Kaiser, that all the world knows I never saw in my life, than 
tell them the truth. But I cant take advantage of you the way 
I used, not even if I seem to be wanting in respect to you and 
cocked up by winning the Cross. 

SIR PEARCE [touched] Not at all, O'Flaherty. Not at all. 

O'FLAHERTY. Sure whats the Cross to me, barring the 
little pension it carries ? Do you think I dont know that theres 
hundreds of men as brave as me that never had the luck to 
get anything for their bravery but a curse from the sergeant, 
and the blame for the faults of them that ought to have been 
their betters? Ive learnt more than youd think, sir; for how 



would a gentleman like you know what a poor ignorant con- 
ceited creature I was when I went from here into the wide 
world as a soldier ? What use is all the lying, and pretending, 
and humbugging, and letting on, when the day comes to 
you that your comrade is killed in the trench beside you, and 
you dont as much as look round at him until you trip over 
his poor body, and then all you say is to ask why the hell the 
stretcher-bearers dont take it out of the way. Why should I 
read the papers to be humbugged and lied to by them that 
had the cunning to stay at home and send me to fight for 
them? Dont talk to me or to any soldier of the war being 
right. No war is right; and all the holy water that Father 
Quinlan ever blessed couldnt make one right. There, sir! 
Now you know what O'Flaherty V.C. thinks; and youre 
wiser so than the others that only knows what he done. 

SIR PEARCE [making the best of if, and turning good- 
humoredly to him again] Well, what you did was brave and 
manly, anyhow. 

O'FLAHERTY. God knows whether it was or not, better 
than you nor me, General. I hope He wont be too hard on 
me for it, anyhow. 

SIR PEARCE [sympathetically] Oh yes: we all have to think 
seriously sometimes, especially when we're a little run down. 
I'm afraid weve been overworking you a bit over these re- 
cruiting meetings. However, we can knock off for the rest 
of the day; and tomorrow's Sunday. Ive had about as much 
as I can stand myself. [He looks at his watch]. It's tea time* I 
wonder whats keeping your mother. 

O'FLAHERTY. It's nicely cocked up the old woman will be 
having tea at the same table as you, sir, instead of in the 
kitchen. She'll be after dressing in the heigh th of grandeur; 
and stop she will at every house on the way to shew herself 
off and tell them where she's going, and fill the whole parish 
with spite and envy. But sure, she shouldnt keep you wait- 
ing, sir. 

SIR PEARCE. Oh, thats all right: she must be indulged on 
an occasion like this. I'm sorry my wife is in London: she'd 


have been glad to welcome your mother. 

O'FLAHERTY. Sure, I know she would, sir. She was always 
a kind friend to the poor. Little her ladyship knew, God help 
her, the depth of divilment that was in us: we were like a 
play to her. You see, sir, she was English: that was how it 
was. We was to her what the Pathans and Senegalese was 
to me when I first seen them: I couldnt think, somehow, 
that they were liars, and thieves, and backbiters, and drunk- 
ards, just like ourselves or any other Christians. Oh, her 
ladyship never knew all that was going on behind her back: 
how would she ? When I was a weeshy child, she gave me 
the first penny I ever had in my hand; and I wanted to pray 
for her conversion that night the same as my mother made 
me pray for yours; and 

SIR PEARCE [scandalized\ Do you mean to say that your 
mother made you pray for my conversion? 

O'FLAHERTY. Sure and she wouldnt want to see a gentle- 
man like you going to hell after she nursing your own son 
and bringing up my sister Annie on the bottle. That was 
how it was, sir. She'd rob you; and she'd lie to you; and she'd 
call down all the blessings of God on your head when she 
was selling you your own three geese that you thought had 
been ate by the fox the day after youd finished fattening 
them, sir; and all the time you were like a bit of her own 
flesh and blood to her. Often has she said she'd live to see 
you a good Catholic yet, leading victorious armies against 
the English and wearing the collar of gold that Malachi won 
from the proud invader. Oh, she's the romantic woman is 
my mother, and no mistake. 

SIR PEARCE [in great perturbation] I really cant believe this, 
O'Flaherty. I could have sworn your mother was as honest 
a woman as ever breathed. 

O'FLAHERTY. And so she is, sir. She's as honest as the day. 

SIR PEARCE. Do you call it honest to steal my geese? 

O'FLAHERTY. She didnt steal them, sir. It was me that 
stole them. 

SIR PEARCE. Oh ! And why the devil d i d you steal them ? 



O'FLAHERTY. Sure we needed them, sir. Often and often 
we had to sell our own geese to pay you the rent to satisfy 
your needs; and why shouldnt we sell your geese to satisfy 


SIR PEARCE. Well, damn me! 

O'FLAHERTY [sweetly] Sure you had to get what you could 
out of us; and we had to get what we could out of you. God 
forgive us both! 

SIR PEARCE. Really, O'Flaherty, the war seems to have 
upset you a little. 

O'FLAHERTY. It's set me thinking, sir; and I'm not used 
to it. It's like the patriotism of the English. They never 
thought of being patriotic until the war broke out; and now 
the patriotism has took them so sudden and come so strange 
to them that they run about like frightened chickens, utter- 
ing all manner of nonsense. But please God theyll forget all 
about it when the war's over. Theyre getting tired of it 

SIR PEARCE. No, no: it has uplifted us all in a wonderful 
way. The world will never be the same again, O'Flaherty. 
Not after a war like this. 

O'FLAHERTY. So they all say, sir. I see no great differ 
myself. It's all the fright and the excitement; and when that 
quiets down theyll go back to their natural divilment and 
be the same as ever. It's like the vermin: itll wash off after a 

SIR PEARCE [rising and planting himself firmly behind the 
garden seat] Well, the long and the short of it is, O'Flaherty, 
I must decline to be a party to any attempt to deceive your 
mother. I thoroughly disapprove of this feeling against the 
English, especially at a moment like the present. Even if 
your mother's political sympathies are really what you re- 
present them to be, I should think that her gratitude to 
Gladstone ought to cure her of such disloyal prejudices. 

O'FLAHERTY (over his shoulder) She says Gladstone was 
an Irishman, sir. What call would he have to meddle with 
Ireland as he did if he wasnt? 



SIR PEARCE. What nonsense! Does she suppose Mr 
Asquith is an Irishman ? 

O'FLAHERTY. She wont give him any credit for Home 
Rule, sir. She says Redmond made him do it. She says you 
told her so. 

SIR PEARCE [convicted out of his own mouth] Well, I never 
meant her to take it up in that ridiculous way. [He moves to 
the end of the garden seat on 'Flaherty's left] I'll give her a 
good talking to when she comes. I'm not going to stand any 
of her nonsense. 

O'FLAHERTY. It's not a bit of use, sir. She says all the 
English generals is Irish. She says all the English poets and 
great men was Irish. She says the English never knew how 
to read their own books until we taught them. She says we're 
the lost tribes of the house of Israel and the chosen people 
of God. She says that the goddess Venus, that was born out 
of the foam of the sea, came up out of the water in Killiney 
Bay off Bray Head. She says that Moses built the seven 
churches, and that Lazarus was buried in Glasnevin. 

SIR PEARCE. Bosh! How does she know he was? Did you 
ever ask her? 

O'FLAHERTY. I did, sir, often. 

SIR PEARCE. And what did she say? 

O'FLAHERTY. She asked me how did I know he wasnt, and 
fetched me a clout on the side of my head. 

SIR PEARCE. But have you never mentioned any famous 
Englishman to her, and asked her what she had to say about 

O'FLAHERTY. The only one I could think of was Shake- 
spear, sir; and she says he was born in Cork. 

SIR PEARCE [exhausted] Well, I give it up [he throws him- 
self into the nearest chair] The woman is Oh, well! No 

O'FLAHERTY [sympathetically] Yes, sir: she's pigheaded 
and obstinate: theres no doubt about it. She's like the Eng- 
lish: they think theres no one like themselves. It's the same 
with the Germans, though theyre educated and ought to 



know better. Youll never have a quiet world til you knock 
the patriotism out of the human race. 

SIR PEARCE. Still, we 

O'FLAHERTY. Whisht, sir, for God's sake: here she is. 

The General jumps up. Mrs 0' Flaherty arrives, and comes 
between the two men. She is very clean, and carefully dressed 
in the old fashioned peasant costume: black silk sunbonnet with a 
tiara of trimmings, and black cloak. 

O'FLAHERTY [rising shyly] Good evening, mother. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [severely] You hold your whisht, and 
learn behavior while I pay my juty to his honor. [To Sir 
Pearce, heartily} And how is your honor's good self? And 
how is her ladyship and all the young ladies ? Oh, it's right 
glad we are to see your honor back again and looking the 
picture of health. 

SIR PEARCE [forcinga note of extreme geniality] Thank you, 
Mrs O'Flaherty. Well, you see weve brought you back your 
son safe and sound. I hope youre proud of him. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. And indeed and I am, your honor. It's 
the brave boy he is; and why wouldnt he be, brought up 
on your honor's estate and with you before his eyes for a 
pattern of the finest soldier in Ireland. Come and kiss your 
old mother, Dinny darlint. [0* Flaherty does so sheepishly]. 
Thats my own darling boy. And look at your fine new uni- 
form stained already with the eggs youve been eating and 
the porter youve been drinking. [She fakes out her handker- 
chief; spits on it; and scrubs his lapel with it}. Oh, it's the un- 
tidy slovenly one you always were. There! It wont be seen 
on the khaki: it's not like the old red coat that would shew 
up everything that dribbled down on it. [To Sir Pearce] And 
they tell me down at the lodge that her ladyship is staying 
in London, and that Miss Agnes is to be married to a fine 
young nobleman. Oh, it's your honor that is the lucky and 
happy father! It will be bad news for many of the young 
gentlemen of the quality round here, sir. Theres lots thought 
she was going to marry young Master Lawless 

SIR PEARCE. What! that that that bosthoon! 


MRS O'FLAHERTY [hilariously] Let your honor alone for 
finding the right word! A big bosthoon he is indeed, your 
honor. Oh, to think of the times and times I have said that 
Miss Agnes would be my lady as her mother was before 
her! Didnt I, Dinny ? 

SIR PEARCE. And now, Mrs O'Flaherty, I daresay you 
have a great deal to say to Dennis that doesnt concern me. 
I'll just go in and order tea. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Oh, why would your honor disturb 
yourself? Sure I can take the boy into the yard. 

SIR PEARCE. Not at all. It wont disturb me in the least. 
And he's too big a boy to be taken into the yard now. He has 
made a front seat for himself. Eh ? [He goes into the house]. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Sure he has that, your honor. God bless 
your honor! [The General being now out of hearing, she turns 
threateningly to her son with one of those sudden Irish changes 
of manner which amaze and scandalize less flexible nations, and 
exclaims] And what do you mean, you lying young scald, by 
telling me you were going to fight agen the English? Did 
you take me for a fool that couldnt find out, and the papers 
all full of you shaking hands with the English king at 
Buckingham Palace? 

O'FLAHERTY. I didnt shake hands with him: he shook 
hands with me. Could I turn on the man in his own house, 
before his own wife, with his money in my pocket and in 
yours, and throw his civility back in his face? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. You would take the hand of a tyrant 
red with the blood of Ireland 

O'FLAHERTY. Arra hold your nonsense, mother: he's not 
half the tyrant you are, God help him. His hand was cleaner 
than mine that had the blood of his own relations on it, may 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [threateningly] Is that a way to speak to 
your mother, you young spalpeen? 

O'FLAHERTY [stoutly] It is so, if you wont talk sense to me. 
It's a nice thing for a poor boy to be made much of by kings 
and queens, and shook hands with by the heighth of his 



country's nobility in the capital cities of the world, and 
then to come home and be scolded and insulted by his own 
mother. I'll fight for who I like; and I'll shake hands with 
what kings I like; and if your own son is not good enough for 
you, you can go and look for another. Do you mind me now? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. And was it the Belgians learned you 
such brazen impudence? 

O'FLAHERTY. The Belgians is good men; and the French 
ought to be more civil to them, let alone their being half 
murdered by the Boshes. ' 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Good men is it. Good men! to come 
over here when they were wounded because it was a Catholic 
country, and then to go to the Protestant Church because 
it didnt cost them anything, and some of them to never go 
near a church at all. Thats what you call good men ! 

O'FLAHERTY. Oh, youre the mighty fine politician, arnt 
you ? Much you know about Belgians or foreign parts or the 
world youre living in, God help you ! 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Why wouldnt I know better than you? 
Amment I your mother ? 

O'FLAHERTY. And if you are itself, how can you know 
what you never seen as well as me that was dug into the 
continent of Europe for six months, and was buried in the 
earth of it three times with the shells bursting on the top of 
me ? I tell you I know what I'm about. I have my own reasons 
for taking part in this great conflict. I'd be ashamed to stay 
at home and not fight when everybody else is fighting. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. If you wanted to fight, why couldnt 
you fight in the German army? 

O'FLAHERTY. Because they only get a penny a day. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Well, and if they do itself, isnt there 
the French army? 

O'FLAHERTY. They only get a hapenny a day. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [much dashed] Oh murder! They must 
be a mean lot, Dinny. 

O'FLAHERTY [sarcastic] Maybe youd have me join the 
Turkish army, and worship the heathen Mahomet that put 


a corn in his ear and pretended it was a message from the 
heavens when the pigeon come to pick it out and eat it. I 
went where I could get the biggest allowance for you; and 
little thanks I get for it ! 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Allowance, is it! Do you know what 
the thieving blackguards did on me ? They came to me and 
they says, "Was your son a big eater?" they says. "Oh, he 
was that" says I: "ten shillings a week wouldnt keep him/' 
Sure I thought the more I said the more theyd give me. 
"Then * * says they, "thats ten shillings a week off your allow- 
ance" they says, "because you save that by the king feeding 
him." "Indeed!" says I: "I suppose if I'd six sons, youd 
stop three pound a week from me, and make out that I ought 
to pay you money instead of you paying me." "Theres a 
fallacy in your argument" they says. 

O'FLAHERTY. A what? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. A fallacy: thats the word he said. I says 
to him, "It's a Pharisee I'm thinking you mean, sir; but you 
can keep your dirty money that your king grudges a poor 
old widow; and please God the English will be bet yet for 
the deadly sin of oppressing the poor"; and with that I shut 
the door in his face. 

O'FLAHERTY [furious] Do you tell me they knocked ten 
shillings off you for my keep ? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [soothing him] No, darlint: they only 
knocked off half a crown. I put up with it because Ive got 
the old age pension; and they know very well I'm only sixty- 
two ; so Ive the better of them by half a crown a week anyhow. 

O'FLAHERTY. It's a queer way of doing business. If theyd 
tell you straight out what they was going to give you, you 
wouldnt mind; but if there was twenty ways of telling the 
truth and only one way of telling a lie, the Government 
would find it out. It's in the nature of governments to tell lies. 

Teresa Driscoll, a parlor maid, comes from the house. 

TERESA. Youre to come up to the drawing room to have 
your tea, Mrs O'Flaherty. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Mind you have a sup of good black tea 



for me in the kitchen afterwards, acushla. That washy dra^ 
ing room tea will give me the wind if I leave it on n 
stomach. {She goes into the house > leaving the two young peoj. 
alone together]. 

O'FLAHERTY. Is that yourself, Tessie? And how are yoi 
TERESA. Nicely, thank you. And hows yourself? 
O'FLAHERTY. Finely, thank God. [He produces a go 
chain]. Look what Ive brought you, Tessie. 

TERESA [shrinking Sure I dont like to touch it, Denn 
Did you take it off a dead man ? 

O'FLAHERTY. No: I took it off a live one; and thankful 1 
was to me to be alive and kept a prisoner in ease and comfoi 
and me left fighting in peril of my life. 

TERESA [taking it] Do you think it's real gold, Denny? 
O'FLAHERTY. It's real German gold, anyhow. 
TERESA. But German silver isnt real, Denny. 
O'FLAHERTY [his face darkening] Well, it's the best tl 
Bosh could do for me, anyhow. 

TERESA. Do you think I might take it to the jeweller ne: 
market day and ask him ? 

O'FLAHERTY [sulkily] You may take it to the divil if yc 

TERESA. You neednt lose your temper about it. I on! 
thought I'd like to know. The nice fool I'd look if I wei 
about shewing off a chain that turned out to be only brass! 
O'FLAHERTY. I think you might say Thank you. 
TERESA. Do you ? I think you might have said somethir 
more to me than "Is that yourself?" You couldnt say less 1 
the postman. 

O'FLAHERTY [his brow clearing^ Oh, is that whats tl 
matter ? Here ! come and take the taste of the brass out of ir 
mouth. [He seizes her and kisses her]. 

Teresa, without losing her Irish dignity, takes the kiss < 
appreciatively as a connoisseur might take a glass of wine y ar 
sits down with him on the garden seat. 

TERESA [as he squeezes her waist] Thank God the prie; 
cant see us here! 


O'FLAHERTY. It's litde they care for priests in France, 

TERESA. And what had the queen on her, Denny, when 
she spoke to you in the palace? 

O'FLAHERTY. She had a bonnet on without any strings to 
it. And she had a plakeen of embroidery down her bosom. 
And she had her waist where it used to be, and not where 
the other ladies had it. And she had little brooches in her 
ears, though she hadnt half the jewelry of Mrs Sullivan that 
keeps the popshop in Drumpogue. And she dresses her hair 
down over her forehead, in a fringe like. And she has an 
Irish look about her eyebrows. And she didnt know what 
to say to me, poor woman! and I didnt know what to say to 
her, God help me! 

TERESA. Youll have a pension now with the Cross, wont 
you, Denny? 

O'FLAHERTY. Sixpence three farthings a day. 

TERESA. That isnt much. 

O'FLAHERTY. I take out the rest in glory. 

TERESA. And if youre wounded, youll have a wound 
pension, wont you? 

O'FLAHERTY. I will, please God. 

TERESA. Youre going out again, arnt you, Denny? 

O'FLAHERTY. I cant help myself. I'd be shot for a deserter 
if I didnt go; and may be Til be shot by the Boshes if I do 
go; so between the two of them I'm nicely fixed up. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [calling from within the house] Tessie! 

TERESA [disengaging herself from his arm and rising] I'm 
wanted for the tea table. Youll have a pension anyhow, 
Denny, wont you, whether youre wounded or not? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Come, child, come. 

TERESA [impatiently] Oh, sure I'm coming. [She tries to 
smile at Denny, not very convincingly, and hurries into the 

O'FLAHERTY [alone] And if I do get a pension itself, the 
divil a penny of it youll ever have the spending of. 



MRS O'FLAHERTY [as she comes from the porch] Oh, it's a 
shame for you to keep the girl from her ju ties, Dinny. You 
might get her into trouble. 

O'FLAHERTY. Much I care whether she gets into trouble 
or not! I pity the man that gets her into trouble. He'll get 
himself into worse. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Whats that you tell me ? Have you been 
falling out with her, and she a girl with a fortune of ten 

O'FLAHERTY. Let her keep her fortune. I wouldnt touch 
her with the tongs if she had thousands and millions. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Oh fie for shame, Dinny! why would 
you say the like of that of a decent honest girl, and one of the 
Driscolls too ? 

O'FLAHERTY. Why wouldnt I say it? She's thinking of 
nothing but to get me out there again to be wounded so that 
she may spend my pension, bad scran to her! 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Why, whats come over you, child, at 
all at all? 

O'FLAHERTY. Knowledge and wisdom has come over me 
with pain and fear and trouble. Ive been made a fool of and 
imposed upon all my life. I thought that covetious sthreal in 
there was a walking angel; and now if ever I marry at all I'll 
marry a Frenchwoman. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [fiercely] Youll not, so; and dont you 
dar repeat such a thing to me. 

O'FLAHERTY. Wont I, faith! Ive been as good as married 
to a couple of them already. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. The Lord be praised, what wickedness 
have you been up to, you young blackguard ? 

O'FLAHERTY. One of them Frenchwomen would cook 
you a meal twice in the day and all days and every day that 
Sir Pearce himself might go begging through Ireland for, 
and never see the like of. I'll have a French wife, I tell you; 
and when I settle down to be a farmer I'll have a French 
farm, with a field as big as the continent of Europe that ten 
of your dirty little fields here wouldnt so much as fill the 

ditch of. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY \furious] Then it's a French mother you 
may go look for; for I'm done with you. 

o' FLAHERTY. And it's no great loss youd be if it wasnt for 
my natural feelings for you; for it's only a silly ignorant old 
countrywoman you are with all your fine talk about Ireland: 
you that never stepped beyond the few acres of it you were 
born on ! 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [tottering to the garden seat and shewing 
signs of breaking down] Dinny darlint, why are you like this 
to me ? Whats happened to you ? 

O'FLAHERTY [gloomily] Whats happened to everybody? 
thats what I want to know. Whats happened to you that I 
thought all the world of and was afeard of? Whats happened 
to Sir Pearce, that I thought was a great general, and that I 
now see to be no more fit to command an army than an old 
hen ? Whats happened to Tessie, that I was mad to marry a 
year ago, and that I wouldnt take now with all Ireland for 
her fortune ? I tell you the world's creation is crumbling in 
ruins about me; and then you come and ask whats hap- 
pened tome? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [giving way to wild grief] Ochone! 
ochone! my son's turned agen me. Oh, whatU I do at all at 
all? Oh! oh! oh! oh! 

SIR PEARCE [running out of the house] Whats this infernal 
noise? What on earth is the matter? 

O'FLAHERTY. Arra hold your whisht, mother. Dont you 
see his honor? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Oh, sir, I'm ruined and destroyed. Oh, 
wont you speak to Dinny, sir: I'm heart scalded with him. 
He wants to marry a Frenchwoman on me, and to go away 
and be a foreigner and desert his mother and betray his 
country. It's mad he is with the roaring of the cannons and 
he killing the Germans and the Germans killing him, bad 
cess to them! My boy is taken from me and turned agen 
me; and who is to take care of me in my old age after all Ive 
done for him, ochone ! ochone ! 


O'FLAHERTY. Hold your noise, I tell you. Who's going to 
leave you? I'm going to take you with me. There now: does 
that satisfy you? 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Is it take me into a strange land among 
heathens and pagans and savages, and me not knowing a 
word of their language nor them of mine? 

O'FLAHERTY. A good job they dont: may be theyll think 
youre talking sense. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Ask me to die out of Ireland, is it? and 
the angels not to find me when they come for me ! 

O'FLAHERTY. And would you ask me to live in Ireland 
where Ive been imposed on and kept in ignorance, and to 
die where the divil himself wouldnt take me as a gift, let 
alone the blessed angels? You can come or stay. You can 
take your old way or take my young way. But stick in this 
place I will not among a lot of good-for-nothing divils thatll 
not do a hand's turn but watch the grass growing and build 
up the stone wall where the cow walked through it. And 
Sir Horace Plunkett breaking his heart all the time telling 
them how they might put the land into decent tillage like 
the French and Belgians. 

SIR PEARCE. Yes: he's quite right, you know, Mrs 
O'Flaherty : quite right there. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Well, sir, please God the war will last a 
long time yet; and may be I'll die before it's over and the 
separation allowance stops. 

O'FLAHERTY. Thats all you care about. It's nothing but 
milch cows we men are for the women, with their separation 
allowances, ever since the war began, bad luck to them that 
made it! 

TERESA [comingfrom the porch between the General and Mrs 
0* Flaherty] Hannah sent me out for to tell you, sir, that the 
tea will be black and the cake not fit to eat with the cold if 
yous all dont come at wanst. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [breaking out again] Oh, Tessie darlint, 
what have you been saying to Dinny at all at all ? Oh ! oh 

SIR PEARCE [out of patience] You cant discuss that here, 


We shall have Tessie beginning now. 

O'FLAHERTY. Thats right, sir: drive them in. 

TERESA. I havnt said a word to him. He 

SIR PEARCE. Hold your tongue; and go in and attend to 
your business at the tea table. 

^ TERESA. But amment I telling your honor that I never 
said a word to him? He gave me a beautiful gold chain. 
Here it is to shew your honour thats it's no lie I'm telling 

SIR PEARCE. Whats this, O'Flaherty? Youve been loot- 
ing some unfortunate officer. 

O'FLAHERTY. No sir: I stole it from him of his own accord. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY. Wouldnt your honor tell him that his 
mother has the first call on it? What would a slip of a girl 
like that be doing with a gold chain round her neck? 

TERESA [venomously] Anyhow, I have a neck to put it 
round and not a hank of wrinkles. 

At this unfortunate remark, Mrs O'Flaherty bounds from 
her seat; and an appalling tempest of wordy wrath breaks out. 
The remonstrances and commands of the General, and the pro- 
tests and menaces of Q? Flaherty > only increase the hubbub. They 
are soon all speaking at once at the top of their voices. 

MRS O'FLAHERTY [solo] You impudent young heifer, how 
dar you say such a thing to me? [Teresa retorts furiously; the 
men interfere; and the solo becomes a quartet^fortissimd\. Ive a 
good mind to clout your ears for you to teach you manners. 
Be ashamed of yourself, do; and learn to know who youre 
speaking to. That I maytnt sin! but I dont know what the 
good God was thinking about when he made the like of you. 
Let me not see you casting sheep's eyes at my son again. 
There never was an O'Flaherty yet that would demean him- 
self by keeping company with a dirty Driscoll; and if I see 
you next or nigh my house I'll put you in the ditch with a 
flea in your ear: mind that now. 

THERESA. Is it me you offer such a name to, you foul- 
mouthed, dirty minded, lying, sloothering old sow, you? I 
wouldnt soil my tongue by calling you in your right name 



and telling Sir Pearce whats the common talk of the town 
about you. You and your O'Flahertys! setting yourself up 
agen the Driscolls that would never lower themselves to be 
seen in conversation with you at the fair. You can keep your 
ugly stingy lump of a son; for what he is but a common 
soldier? and God help the girl that gets him, say I! So the 
back of my hand to you, Mrs O'Flaherty; and that the cat 
may tear your ugly old face ! 

SIR PEARCE. Silence. Tessie: did you here me ordering 
you to go into the house? Mrs O'Flaherty! [Louder] Mrs 
O'Flaherty!! Will you just listen to me one moment? Please. 
[Furiously} Do you hear me speaking to you, woman? Are 
you human beings or are you wild beasts? Stop that noise 
immediately: do you hear? [Yelling] Are you going to do 
what I order you, or are you not? Scandalous! Disgraceful! 
This comes of being too familiar with you. O'Flaherty: 
shove them into the house. Out with the whole damned 
pack of you. 

O'FLAHERTY [to the women] Here now: none of that, none 
of that. Go easy, I tell you. Hold your whisht, mother, will 
you, or youll be sorry for it after. [To Teresa] Is that the way 
for a decent young girl to speak? [Despairingly] Oh, for the 
Lord's sake, shut up, will yous? Have yous no respect for 
yourselves or your betters? [Peremptorily] Let me have no 
more of it, I tell you. Och! the divil's in the whole crew of 
you. In with you into the house this very minute and tear 
.one another's eyes out in the kitchen if you like. In with you. 

The two men seize the two women, and push them, still vio- 
lently abusing one another, into the house. Sir Pearce slams the 
door upon them savagely. Immediately a heavenly silence falls on 
the summer afternoon. The two sit down out of breath; and for 
a long time nothing is said. Sir Pearce sits on an iron chair. 
O'Flaherty sits on the garden seat. The thrush begins to sing 
melodiously. O'Flaherty cocks his ears, and looks up at it. A sm He 
spreads over his troubled features. Sir Pearce, with a long sigh, 
takes out his pipe, and begins to fill it. 

O'FLAHERTY [idyllically] What a discontented sort of an 


animal a man is, sir! Only a month ago, I was in the quiet 
of the country out at the front, with not a sound except the 
birds and the bellow of a cow in the distance as it might be, 
and the shrapnel making little clouds in the heavens, and 
the shells whistling, and may be a yell or two when one of us 
was hit; and would you believe it, sir, I complained of the 
noise and wanted to have a peaceful hour at home. Well: 
them two has taught me a lesson. This morning, sir, when I 
was telling the boys here how I was longing to be back 
taking my part for king and country with the others, I was 
lying, as you well knew, sir. Now I can go and say it with a 
clear conscience. Some likes war's alarums; and some likes 
home life. Ive tried both, sir; and Fm all for war's alarums 
now. I always was a quiet lad by natural disposition. 

SIR PEARCE. Strictly between ourselves, O'Flaherty, and 
as one soldier to another [O'Flaherty salutes* ut without 
stiffening do you think we should have got an army without 
conscription if domestic life had been as happy as people 
say it is ? 

O'FLAHERTY. Well, between you and me and the wall, Sir 
Pearce, I think the less we say about that until the war's 
over, the better. 

He winks at the General* The General strikes a match. The 
thrush sings. A jay laughs. The conversation drops. 


THIS is not a serious play; it is what is called a Variety 
Turn for two musicians. It is written for two pianists, but 
can be adapted to any instruments on which the performers 
happen to be proficient. At its first performance by Miss 
Madge Mclntosh and Mr William Armstrong the diffi- 
culty arose that, though Mr Armstrong was an accomplished 
pianist, Miss Mclntosh's virtuosity was confined to the 
English concertina. That did just as well. 

As a last desperate resort a pianola behind the scenes can 
be employed; but the result will lack spontaneity. 

There is, however, no pressing reason why the thing 
should be performed at all. 



E> REGINALD FITZAMBEY, a fashionably 
dressed, rather pretty young man 0/22, is prostrate on a 
sofa in a large hotel drawing room, crying convulsively. 
His doctor is trying to soothe him. The doctor is about a dozen 
years his senior; and his ways are the ways of a still youthful 
man who considers himself in smart society as well as profes- 
sionally attendant on it. 

The drawingroom has tall central doors, at present locked. If 
anyone could enter under these circumstances, he would find on 
his left a grand piano with the keyboard end towards him, and a 
smaller door beyond the piano. On his right would be the window, 
and, further on, the sofa op which the unhappy youth is wallow- 
ing, with, close by it, the doctor's chair and a little table accom- 
modating the doctor's hat, a plate, a medicine bottle, a half 
emptied glass, and a bell call. 

THE DOCTOR. Come come! be a man. Now really this is 
silly. You mustnt give way like this. I tell you nothing's hap- 
pened to you. Hang it all! it's not the end of the world if 
you did buy a few shares 

REGINALD [interrupting him frantic ally] I never meant any 
harm in buying those shares. I am ready to give them up. 
Oh, I never meant any harm in buying those shares. I never 
meant any harm in buying those shares. [Clutching the doctor 
imploringly] Wont you believe me, Doctor? I never meant 
any harm in buying those shares. I never 

THE DOCTOR [extricating himself 'and 'replacing Reginald on 
the couch, not very gently] Of course you didnt. I know you 

REGINALD. I never 

THE DOCTOR [desperate] Dont go on saying that over and 
over again or you will drive us all as distracted as you are 
yourself. This is nothing but nerves. Remember that youre 
in a hotel. Theyll put you out if you make a row. 

REGINALD [tearfully] But you dont understand. Oh, why 
wont anybody understand? I never 

THE DOCTOR [shouting him down] You never meant any 



harm in buying those shares. This is the four hundredth 
time youve said it. 

REGINALD [wildly] Then why do you keep asking me the 
same questions over and over again? It's not fair. Ive told 
you I never meant any harm in 

THE DOCTOR. Yes, yes, yes: I know, I know. You think 
you made a fool of yourself before that committee. Well, 
you didnt. You stood up to it for six days with the coolness 
of an iceberg and the cheerfulness of an idiot. Every member 
of it had a go at you; and everyone of them, including some 
of the cleverest cross-examiners in London, fell back baffled 
before your fatuous self-satisfaction, your impenetrable in- 
ability to see any reason why you shouldnt have bought 
those shares. 

REGINALD. But why shouldnt I have bought them? I 
made no secret of it. When the Prime Minister ragged me 
about it I offered to sell him the shares for what I gave for 

THE DOCTOR. Yes, after they had fallen six points. But 
never mind that. The point for you is that you are an under- 
secretary in the War Office. You knew that the army was 
going to be put on vegetarian diet, and that the British 
Maccaroni Trust shares would go up with a rush when this 
became public. And what did you do ? 

REGINALD. I did what any fellow would have done. I 
bought all the shares I could afford. 

THE DOCTOR. You bought a great many more than you 
could afford. 

REGINALD. But why shouldnt I ? Explain it to me. I'm 
anxious to learn. I meant no harm. I see no harm. Why am I 
to be badgered because the beastly Opposition papers and 
all the Opposition rotters on that committee try to make 
party capital out of it by saying that it was disgraceful? It 
wasnt disgraceful: it was simple common sense. I'm not a 
financier; but you cant persuade me that if you happen to 
know that certain shares are going to rise you shouldnt buy 
them. It would be flying in the face of Providence not to. 


And they wouldnt see that. They pretended not to see it. 
They worried me, and kept asking me the same thing over 
and over again, and wrote blackguardly articles about me 

THE DOCTOR. And you got the better of them all because 
you couldnt see their point of view. But what beats me is 
why you broke down afterwards. 

REGINALD. Everyone was against me. I thought the com- 
mittee a pack of fools; and I as good as told them so. But 
everyone took their part. The governor said I had disgraced 
the family name. My brothers said I ought to resign from 
my clubs. My mother said that all her hopes of marrying 
me to a rich woman were shattered. And I'd done nothing: 
absolutely nothing to what otherchaps are doing every day. 

THE DOCTOR. Well, the long and short of it is that officials 
mustnt gamble. 

REGINALD. But I wasnt gambling. I kn e w. It isnt gambl- 
ing if you know that the shares will go up. It's a cert. 

THE DOCTOR. Well, all I can tell you is that if you werent 
a son of the Duke of Dunmow, youd have to resign; and 

REGINALD [breaking down] Oh, stop talking to me about 
it. Let me alone, I cant bear it. I never meant any harm in 
buying those shares. I never meant any harm 

THE DOCTOR. Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh ! There: I shouldnt have 
started the subject again. Take some of this valerian [he puts 
the glass to Reginald's lips}. Thats right. Now youre better. 

REGINALD [exhausted but calm] Why does valerian soothe 
me when it excites cats ? Theres a question to reflect on ! You 
know, they ought to have made me a philosopher. 

THE DOCTOR. Philosophers are born, not made. 

REGINALD. Fine old chestnut, that. Everybody's born, 
not made. 

THE DOCTOR. Youre getting almost clever. I dont like it: 
youre not yourself today. I wish I could take your mind off 
your troubles. Suppose you try a little music. 

REGINALD. I cant play. My fingers wont obey me. And Jf 
cant stand the sound of the piano. I sounded a note this 
morning; and it made me scream. 



THE DOCTOR. But why not get somebody to play to you ? 

REGINALD. Whom could I get, even if I could bear it? 
You cant play. 

THE DOCTOR. Well : I'm not the only person in the world. 

REGINALD. If you bring anyone else in here, I shall go 
mad. I'll throw myself out of the window. I cant bear the 
idea of music. I dread it, hate it, loathe it. 

THE DOCTOR. Thats very serious, you know. 

REGINALD. Why is it serious ? 

THE DOCTOR. Well, what would become of you without 
your turn for music? You have absolutely no capacity in any 
other directioft. 

REGINALD. I'm in Parliament. And I'm an under-secre- 

THE DOCTOR. Thats because your father is a Duke. If you 
were in a Republic you wouldnt be trusted to clean boots, 
unless your father was a millionaire. No, Reginald: the day 
you give up vamping accompaniments and playing the latest 
ragtimes by ear, youre a lost man socially. 
REGINALD [deprecating] Oh, I say! 

THE DOCTOR [rising] However, perhaps it's too soon for 
you to try the music-cure yet. It was your mother's idea; but 
I'll call and tell her to wait a day or two. I think she meant 
to send somebody to play. I must be off now. Look in again 
later. Meanwhile, sleep as much as you can. Or you might 
read a little. 

REGINALD. What can I read? 

THE DOCTOR. Try the Strand Magazine. 

REGINALD. But it's so frightfully intellectual. It would 
overtax my brain. 

THE DOCTOR. Oh, well, I suppose it would. Well, sleep. 
Perhaps I'd better give you something to send you off [he 
produces a medicine case]. 

REGINALD. Whats this ? Veronal ? 

THE DOCTOR. Dont be alarmed. Only the old-fashioned 
remedy: opium. Take this [Reginald fakes a pill]: that will 
do the trick, I expect. If you find after half an hour that it 



has only excited you, take another. I'll leave one for you [he 
puts one on the plate, and pockets his medicine case}. 

REGINALD. Better leave me a lot. I like pills. 

THE DOCTOR. Thank you: I'm not treating you with a 
view to a coroner's inquest. You know, dont you, that opium 
is a poison? 

REGINALD. Yes, opium. But not pills. 

THE DOCTOR. Well, Heaven forbid that I, a doctor, should 
shake anybody's faith in pills. But I shant leave you enough 
to kill you. [He puts on his hat]. 

REGINALD. Youll tell them, wont you, not to let anyone 
in. Really and truly I shall throw myself out of the window 
if any stranger comes in. I should go out of my mind. 

THE DOCTOR. None of us have very far to go to do that, 
my young friend. Ta ta, for the moment [he makes for the 
central doors]. 

REGINALD. You cant go out that way. I made my mother 
lock it and take away the key. I felt sure theyd let somebody 
in that way if she didnt. Youll have to go the way you came. 

THE DOCTOR [returning Right. Now let me see you settle 
down before I go. I want you to be asleep before I leave the 

Reginald settles himself to sleep with his face to the back of 
the sofa. The doctor goes softly to the side door and goes out. 

REGINALD [sitting up wildly and staring affrightedly at the 
piano] Doctor ! Doctor ! Help ! ! ! 

THE DOCTOR [returning hastily] What is it? 

REGINALD [after another doubtful look at the piano] Nothing. 
[He composes himself to sleep again]. 

THE DOCTOR. Nothing! There must have been some- 
thing or you wouldnt have yelled like that. [Pulling Reginald 
over so as to see his face] Here ! what was it? 

REGINALD. Well, it's gone. 

THE DOCTOR. Whats gone? 

REGINALD. The crocodile. 

THE DOCTOR. The crocodile! 

REGINALD. Yes. It laughed at me, and was going to play 



the piano with its tail. 

THE DOCTOR. Opium in small doses doesnt agree with 
you, my young friend. [Taking the spare pill from the plate] I 
shall have to give you a second pill. 

REGINALD. But suppose two crocodiles come! 

THE DOCTOR. They wont. If anything comes it will be 
something pretty this time. Thats how opium acts. Any- 
how, youll be fast asleep in ten minutes. Here. Take it. 

REGINALD [after taking the pill\ It was awfully silly of me. 
But you know I really saw the thing. 

THE DOCTOR. You neednt trouble about what you see 
with your eyes shut. [He turns to the door]. 

REGINALD. Would you mind looking under the sofa to 
make sure the crocodile isnt there? 

THE DOCTOR. Why not look yourself? that would be more 

REGINALD. I darent. 

THE DOCTOR. You duffer! [He looks]. All serene. No 
crocodile. Now go bye bye. [He goes out]. 

Reginald again composes himself to sleep. Somebody unlocks 
the central doors. A lovely lady enters with a bouquet in her hand. 
She looks about her; takes a letter from wherever she carries 
letters; and starts on a voyage of discovery round the room, check- 
ing her observations by the contents of the letter. The piano seems 
specially satisfactory: she nods as she sees it. Reginald seems also 
to be quite expected. She does not speak to him. When she is quite 
satisfied that she is in the right room 9 she goes to the piano and 
tantalizes the expectant audience for about two minutes by put- 
ting down her flowers on the candle-stand; taking off her gloves 
and putting them with the flowers; taking of half a dozen 
diamond rings in the same way; sitting down to the keyboard and 
finding it too near to the piano, then too far, then too high, then too 
low: in short, exhausting all the tricks of the professional pianist 
before she at last strikes the keys and preludes brilliantly. At the 
sound, Reginald, with a scream, rolls from the sofa and writhes 
on the carpet in horrible contortions. She stops playing, amazed. 

REGINALD. Oh! Oh! Oh! The crocodiles! Stop! Ow! 
1 60 


Oh! [He looks at the piano and sees the lady] Oh I say! 

THE LADY. What on earth do you mean by making that 
noise when I'm playing? Have you no sense? Have you no 

REGINALD [sitting on the floor] I'm awfully sorry. 

THE LADY. Sorry ! Why did you do it ? 

REGINALD. I thought you were a crocodile. 

THE LADY. What a silly thing to say! Do I look like a 


THE LADY. Do I play like a crocodile ! 

REGINALD [cautiously rising and approaching her] Well, 
you know, it's so hard to know how a crocodile would play. 

THE LADY. Stuff! [She resumes her playing], 

REGINALD. Please! [He stops her by shutting the keyboard 
lld\. Who let you in ? 

THE LADY [rising threateningly] What is that to you, pray? 

REGINALD [retreating timidly] It's my room, you know. 

THE LADY. It's nothing of the sort. It's the Duchess of 
Dunmow's room. I know it's the right one, because she gave 
me the key; and it was the right key. 

REGINALD. But what did she do that for? Who are you, if 
you dont mind my asking? 

THE LADY. I do mind your asking. It's no business of 
yours. However, youd better know to whom you are speak- 
ing. I am Strega Thundridge. [She pronounces it Stray ga]. 

REGINALD, What ! The female Paderewski ! 

STREGA. Pardon me. I believe Mr Paderewski has been 
called the male Thundridge; but no gentleman would 
dream of repeating such offensive vulgarities. Will you be 
good enough to return to your sofa, and hold your tongue, 
or else leave the room. 

REGINALD. But, you know, I am ill. 

STREGA. Then go to bed, and send for a doctor. [She sits 
down again to the keyboard\. 

REGINALD [falling on his knees] You mustnt play. You 
really mustnt. I cant stand it. I shall simply not be myself if 



you start playing. 

STREGA [raising the lid] Then I shall start at once. 

REGINALD [running to heron his knees and snatching at her 
hands] No, you shant. [She rises indignantly. He holds on to 
her hands, but exclaims ecstatically] Oh, I say, what lovely 
hands youve got! 

STREGA. The idea ! [She hurls him to the carpet]. 

REGINALD [on the floor staring at her] You are strong. 

STREGA. My strength has been developed by playing left 
hand octave passages like this. [She begins playing Liszt's 
transcription of Schuberfs ErlKonig[. 

REGINALD \puts his fingers in his ears, but continues to stare 

STREGA [stopping^ I really cannot play if you keep your 
ears stopped. It is an insult. Leave the room. 

REGINALD. But I tell you it's my room. 

STREGA [rising] Leave the room, or I will ring your bell 
and have you put out. [She goes to the little table, and poises 
her fingers over the bell call]. 

REGINALD [rushi ng to her] No no: somebody will come if 
you ring; and I shall go distracted if a stranger comes in. 
[With a touch of her left hand she sends him reeling. He appeals 
to her plaintively] Dont you see that I am ill ? 

STREGA. I see that you are mentally afflicted. But that 
doesnt matter to me. The Duchess of Dunmow has engaged 
me to come to this room and play for two hours. I never 
break an engagement, especially a two hundred and fifty 
guinea one. [She turns towards the piano]. 

REGINALD. But didnt she tell you anything about me? 

STREGA [turning back to him] She said there would be a 
foolish young man in the room, but that I was not to mind 
him. She assured me you were not dangerous except to your- 
self [Collaring him and holding him bent backwards over the 
piano]. But I will have no nonsense about not listening. All 
the world listens when I play. Listen, or go. 

REGINALD [helpless] But I shall have to sit on the stairs. I 
darent go into any of the rooms: I should meet people there. 


STREGA, You will meet plenty of people on the stairs, 
young man. They are sitting six on each stair, not counting 
those who are sitting astride the banisters on the chance of 
hearing me play. 

REGINALD. How dreadful! [Tearfully] Youve no right to 
bully me like this. I'm ill: I cant bear it. I'll throw myself 
out of the window. 

STREGA [releasing him] Do. What an advertisement! It 
will be really kind of you. [She goes back to the keyboard and 
sits down to play]. 

REGINALD [crossing to the window] Youll be sorry you 
were so unfeeling when you see my mangled body. [He 
opens the window; looks out; shuts it hastily y and retreats with 
a scream], Theres a crowd. I darent. 

STREGA \pleased\ Waiting to hear me play [she preludes 

REGINALD [ravished\ Oh! I can stand that, you know. 

STREGA [ironically, still preluding Thank you. 

REGINALD. The fact is, I can play a bit myself. 

STREGA [still preluding] An amateur, I presume. 

REGINALD. I have often been told I could make a living 
at it if I tried. But of course it wouldnt do for a man in my 
position to lower himself by becoming a professional. 

STREGA [abruptly ceasing to play] Tactful, that, I don t 
think! And what do you play, may I ask? 

REGINALD. Oh, all the very best music. 

STREGA. For instance? 

REGINALD. I wish you belonged to me. 

STREGA [rising outraged\ You young blackguard! How 
dare you? 

REGINALD. You dont understand: it's the name of a tune. 
Let me play it for you. [He sits down at the keyboard] I dont 
think you believe I can play. 

STREGA. Pardon me. I have heard a horse play the har- 
monium at a music hall. I can believe anything. 

REGINALD. Aha! [He play s]. Do you like that? 

STREGA. What is it? Is it intended for music? 



REGINALD. Oh, you beautiful doll. 

STREGA. Take that [she knocks him sprawling over the key- 
board\ \ Beautiful doll indeed ! 

REGINALD. Oh, I say ! Look here: thats the name of the 
tune too. You seem quite ignorant of the best music. Dont 
you know Rum Turn Tiddle, and Alexander's Rag Time 
Band, and Take me back to the Garden of Love, and Every- 
body likes our Mary. 

STREGA. Young man: I have never even heard of these 
abominations. I am now going to educate you musically. I 
am going to play Chopin, and Brahms, and Bach, and Schu- 
mann, and 

REGINALD [horrified] You dont mean classical music? 

STREGA. I do [he bolts through the central doors]. 

STREGA [disgusted] Pig! [She sits down at the piano again]. 

REGINALD [rushing back into the room] I forgot the people 
on the stairs: crowds of them. Oh, what shall I do! Oh dont, 
Dont, DONT play classical music to me. Say you wont. 

STREGA [looks at him enigmatically and softly plays a Liebes- 

REGINALD. Oh, I say: thats rather pretty. 

STREGA. Like it? 

REGINALD. Awfully. Oh, I say, you know: I really do 
wish you belonged to me. [Strega suddenly plays a violent 
Chopin study. He goes into convulsions]. Oh! Stop! Mercy! 
Help ! Oh please, please ! 

STREGA [pausing with her hands raised over the keyboard^ 
ready to pounce on the chords] Will you ever say that again ? 

REGINALD. Never. I beg your pardon. 

STREGA [satisfied] Hm ! [She drops her hands In her lap]. 

REGINALD [wiping his brow] Oh, that was fearfully classi- 

STREGA. You want your back stiffened a little, my young 
friend. Besides, I really cannot earn two hundred and fifty 
guineas by playing soothing syrup to you. Now prepare for 
the worst. I'm going to make a man of you. 



STREGA. With Chopin's Polonaise in A Flat. Now. 
Imagine yourself going into battle. [He runs away as before]. 

REGINALD [returning as before] The crowd is worse than 
ever. Have you no pity? 

STREGA. Come here. Dont imagine yourself going into 
battle. Imagine that you have just been in a battle; and that 
you have saved your country by deeds of splendid bravery; 
and that you are going to dance with beautiful women who 
are proud of you. Can you imagine that ? 

REGINALD. Rathe-e-e-errr. Thats how I always do im- 
agine myself. 

STREGA. Right. Now listen. [She plays the first section of the 
Polonaise. Reginald flinches at first, but gradually braces him- 
self; stiffens; struts; throws up his head and slaps his chest]. 
Thats better. What a hero! [After a difficult passage]. Takes 
a bit of doing, that, dearest child. [Coming to the chords which 
announce the middle section] Now for it. 

REGINALD [unable to contain himself] Oh, this is too glori- 
ous. I must have a turn or I shall forget myself. 

STREGA. Can you play this? Nothing but this. [She plays 
the octave passage in the bass]. 

REGINALD. Just riddle riddle, riddle tiddle, riddle riddle, 
riddle tiddle? Nothing but that? 

STREGA. Very softly at first. Like the ticking of a watch. 
Then louder and louder, as you feel my soul swelling. 

REGINALD. I understand. Just give me those chords again 
to buck me up to it. [She plays the chords again. He plays the 
octave passages; and they play the middle section as a duet. At 
the repeat he cries] Again ! again ! 

STREGA. It's meant to be played again. Now. 

They repeat it. At the end of the section she pushes him off the 
bench on to the floor,, and goes on with the Polonaise alone. 

REGINALD. Wonderful woman: I have a confession to 
make, a confidence to impart. Your playing draws it from 
me. Listen, Strega [she plays a horrible discord\ I mean Miss 



STREGA. Thats better; but I prefer Wonderful Woman. 

REGINALD. You are a wonderful woman, you know. 
Adored one would you mind my taking a little valerian ? 
I'm so excited [he lakes some]. A a ah! Now I feel that I 
can speak. Listen to me, goddess. I am not happy. I hate my 
present existence. I loathe parliament. I am not fit for public 
affairs. I am condemned to live at home with five coarse 
and brutal sisters who care for nothing but Alpine climbing, 
and looping the loop on aeroplanes, and going on deputa- 
tions, and fighting the police. Do you know what they call 

STREGA \playingsoftly] What do they call you, dear? 

REGINALD. They call me a Clinger. Well, I confess it. I 
am a Clinger. I am not fit to be thrown unprotected upon 
the world. I want to be shielded. I want a strong arm to lean 
on, a dauntless heart to be gathered to and cherished, a 
breadwinner on whose income I can live without the sordid 
horrors of having to make money for myself. I am a poor 
little thing, I know, Strega; but I could make a home for 
you. I have great taste in carpets and pictures. I can cook 
like anything. I can play quite nicely after dinner. Though 
you mightnt think it, I can be quite stern and strongminded 
with servants. I get on splendidly with children: they never 
talk over my head as grown-up people do. I have a real 
genius for home life. And I shouldnt at all mind being 
tyrannized over a little: in fact, I like it. It saves me the 
trouble of haying to think what to do. Oh, Strega, dont you 
want a dear little domesticated husband who would have no 
concern but to please you, no thought outside our home, 
who would be unspotted and unsoiled by the rude cold 
world, who would never meddle in politics or annoy you 
by interfering with your profession? Is there any hope for 

STREGA [coming away from the piano] My child: I am a 
hard, strong, independent, muscular woman. How can you, 
with your delicate soft nature, see anything to love in me? I 
1 66 


should hurt you, shock you, perhaps yes: let me confess 
it I have a violent temper, and might even,, in a transport 
of rage, beat you. 

REGINALD. Oh do, do. Dont laugh at this ridiculous con- 
fession; but ever since I was a child I have had only one 
secret longing, and that was to be mercilessly beaten by a 
splendid, strong, beautiful woman. 

STREGA [solemnly] Reginald I think your mother spoke 
of you as Reginald? 


STREGA. I too have a confession to make. I too need some 
music to speak through. Will you be so good? 

REGINALD. Angel. [He rushes to the piano and plays sym- 
pathetically whilst she speaks}. 

STREGA. I, too, have had my dream. It has consoled me 
through the weary hours when I practised scales for eight 
hours a day. It has pursued me through the applause of ad- 
miring thousands in Europe and America. It is a dream of a 
timid little heart fluttering against mine, of a gentle voice to 
welcome me home, of a silky moustache to kiss my weary 
fingers when I return from a Titanic struggle with Tchai- 
kovsky's Concerto in G major, of somebody utterly depend- 
ent on me, utterly devoted to me, utterly my own, living 
only to be cherished and worshipped by me. 

REGINALD. But you would be angry sometimes: terrible, 
splendid, ruthless, violent. You would throw down the thing 
you loved and trample on it as it clung to your feet. 

STREGA. Yes oh, why do you force me to confess it? 
I should beat it to a jelly, and then cast myself in transports 
of remorse on its quivering frame and smother it with pas- 
sionate kisses. 

REGINALD [transported] Let it be me, let it be me. 

STREGA. You dare face this terrible destiny? 

REGINALD. I embrace it. I adore you. I am wholly yours. 
Oh, let me cling, cling, cling. 

STREGA [embracing him fiercely] Nothing shall tear you 
from my arms now. 



REGINALD. Nothing. I am provided for. Oh how happy 
this will make my mother! 

STREGA. Sweet: name the day. 

He plays a wedding march. She plays the bass. 

AYOT ST LAWRENCE, list January 1914. 

1 68 






THIS little play is really a religious tract in dramatic 
form. If our silly censorship would permit its per- 
formance, it might possibly help to set right-side- 
up the perverted conscience and re-invigorate the starved 
self-respect of our considerable class of loose-lived play- 
goers whose point of honor is to deride all official and con- 
ventional sermons. As it is, it only gives me an opportunity 
of telling the story of the Select Committee of both Houses 
of Parliament which sat last year to inquire into the work- 
ing of the censorship, against which it was alleged by myself 
and others that as its imbecility and mischievousness could 
not be fully illustrated within the limits of decorum imposed 
on the press, it could only be dealt with by a parliamentary 
body subject to no such limits. 


Few books of the year 1909 can have been cheaper and 
more entertaining than the report of this Committee. Its 
APPENDICES. What the phrase "the Stage Plays" means in 
this title I do not know; nor does anyone else. The number 
of the Bluebook is 214. How interesting it is may be judged 
from the fact that it contains verbatim reports of long and 
animated interviews between the Committee and such wit- 
nesses as Mr William Archer, Mr Granville Barker, Mr 
J. M. Barrie, Mr Forbes Robertson, Mr Cecil Raleigh, Mr 
John Galsworthy, Mr Laurence Housman, Sir Herbert 
Beerbohm Tree, Mr W. L. Courtney, Sir William Gilbert, 
Mr. A. B. Walkley, Miss Lena Ashwell, Professor Gilbert 
Murray, Mr George Alexander, Mr George Edwardes, Mr 
Comyns Carr, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the 
Bishop of Southward, Mr Hall Caine, Mr Israel Zangwill, 
Sir Squire Bancroft, Sir Arthur Pinero, and Mr Gilbert 



Chesterton, not to mention myself and a number of gentle- 
men less well known to the general public, but important in 
the world of the theatre. The publication of a book by so 
many famous contributors would be beyond the means of 
any commercial publishing firm. His Majesty's Stationery 
Office sells it to all comers by weight at the very reasonable 
price of three-and-threepence a copy. 

It was pointed out by Charles Dickens in Little Dorrit, 
which remains the most accurate and penetrating study of 
the genteel littleness of our class governments in the English 
language, that whenever an abuse becomes oppressive 
enough to persuade our party parliamentarians that some- 
thing must be done, they immediately set to work to face the 
situation and discover How Not To Do It. Since Dickens's 
day the exposures effected by the Socialists have so shattered 
the self-satisfaction of modern commercial civilization that 
it is no longer difficult to convince our governments that 
something must be done, even to the extent of attempts at a 
reconstruction of civilization on a thoroughly uncommercial 
basis. Consequently, the first part of the process described 
by Dickens: that in which the reformers were snubbed by 
front bench demonstrations that the administrative depart- 
ments were consuming miles of red tape in the correctest 
forms of activity, and that everything was for the best in the 
best of all possible worlds, is out of fashion; and we are in 
that other phase, familiarized by the history of the French 
Revolution, in which the primary assumption is that the 
country is in danger, and that the first duty of all parties, 
politicians, and governments is to save it. But as the effect of 
this is to give governments a great many more things to do, 
it also gives a powerful stimulus to the art of How Not To 
Do Them: that is to say, the art of contriving methods of 
reform which will leave matters exactly as they are. 

The report of the Joint Select Committee is a capital 
illustration of this tendency. The case against the censor- 
ship was overwhelming; and the defence was more damag- 


ing to it than no defence at all could have been. Even had 
this not been so, the mere caprice of opinion had turned 
against the institution; and a reform was expected, evidence 
or no evidence. Therefore the Committee was unanimous as 
to the necessity of reforming the censorship; only, unfortun- 
ately, themajority attached to thisunanimitytheusual condi- 
tion that nothing should be done to disturb the existing state 
of things. How this was effected may be gathered from 
the recommendations finally agreed on, which are as follows. 

1. The drama is to be set entirely free by the abolition of 
the existing obligation to procure a licence from the Censor 
before performing a play; but every theatre lease is in future 
to be construed as if it contained a clause giving the land- 
lord power to break it and evict the lessee if he produces a 
play without first obtaining the usual licence from the 
Lord Chamberlain. 

2. Some of the plays licensed by the Lord Chamberlain 
are so vicious that their present practical immunity from 
prosecution must be put an end to; but no manager who 
procures the Lord Chamberlain's licence for a play can be 
punished in any way for producing it, though a special tri- 
bunal may order him to discontinue the performance; and 
even this order must not be recorded to his disadvantage on 
the licence of his theatre, nor may it be given as a judicial 
reason for cancelling that licence. 

3. Authors and managers producing plays without first 
obtaining the usual licence from the Lord Chamberlain 
shall be perfectly free to do so, and shall be at no disadvan- 
tage compared to those who follow the existing practice, ex- 
cept that they may be punished, have the licences of their 
theatres endorsed and cancelled, and have the performance 
stopped pending the proceedings without compensation in 
the event of the proceedings ending in their acquittal. 

4. Authors are to be rescued from their present subjec- 
tion to an irresponsible secret tribunal which can condemn 
their plays without givingreasons by the substitution for that 
tribunal of a Committee of the Privy Council, which is to be 



the final authority on the fitness of a play for representation; 
and this Committee is to sit in camera if and when it pleases. 

5. The power to impose a veto on the production of plays 
is to be abolished because it may hinder the growth of a great 
national drama; but the Office of Examiner of Plays shall be 
continued; and the Lord Chamberlain shall retain his pre- 
sent powers to license plays, but shall be made responsible 
to Parliament to the extent of making it possible to ask ques- 
tions there concerning his proceedings, especially now that 
members have discovered a method of doing this indirectly. 

And so on, and so forth. The thing is to be done; and it is 
not to be done. Everything is to be changed and nothing is 
to be changed* The problem is to be faced and the solution 
to be shirked. And the word of Dickens is to be justified. 

Let me now tell the story of the Committee in greater de- 
tail, partly as a contribution to history; partly because, like 
most true stories, it is more amusing than the official story. 

All commissions of public enquiry are more or less in- 
timidated both by the interests on which they have to sit in 
judgment and, when their members are party politicians, by 
the votes at the back of those interests; but this unfortunate 
Committee sat under a quite exceptional cross fire. First, 
there was the king. The Censor is a member of his household 
retinue; and as a king's retinue has to be jealously guarded 
to avoid curtailment of the royal state no matter what may be 
the function of the particular retainer threatened, nothing 
but an express royal intimation to the contrary, which is a 
constitutional impossibility, could have relieved the Com- 
mittee from the fear of displeasing the king by any proposal 
to abolish the censorship of the Lord Chamberlain. Now all 
the lords on the Committee and some of the commoners 
could have been wiped out of society (in their sense of 
the word) by the slightest intimation that the king would 
prefer not to meet them; and this was a heavy risk to run on 
the chance of "a great and serious national drama" ensuing 


on the removal of the Lord Chamberlain's veto on Mrs 
Warren's Profession. Second, there was the Nonconformist 
conscience, holding the Liberal Government responsible 
for the Committee it had appointed, and holding also, to the 
extent of votes enough to turn the scale in some constitu- 
encies, that the theatre is the gate of hell, to be tolerated, as 
vice is tolerated, only because the power to suppress it could 
not be given to any public body without too serious an in- 
terference with certain Liberal traditions of liberty which 
are still useful to Nonconformists in other directions. Third, 
there was the commercial interest of the theatrical managers 
and their syndicates of backers in the City, to whom, as I 
shall shew later on, the censorship affords a cheap insurance 
of enormous value. Fourth, there was the powerful interest 
of the trade in intoxicating liquors, fiercely determined to 
resist any extension of the authority of teetotaller-led local 
governing bodies over theatres. Fifth, there were the play- 
wrights, without political power, but with a very close 
natural monopoly of a talent not only for play-writing but 
for satirical polemics. And since every interest has its 
opposition, all these influences had created hostile bodies by 
the operation of the mere impulse to contradict them, al- 
ways strong in English human nature. 



The only one of these influences which seems to be gener- 
ally misunderstood is that of the managers. It has been as- 
sumed repeatedly that managers and authors are affected in 
the same way by the censorship. When a prominent author 
protests against the censorship, his opinion is supposed to 
be balanced by that of some prominent manager who de- 
clares that the censorship is the mainstay of the theatre, and 
his relations with the Lord Chamberlain and the Examiner 
of Plays a cherished privilege and an inexhaustible joy. This 
error was not removed by the evidence given before the 
Joint Select Committee. The managers did not make their 
case clear there, partly because they did not understand it> 



and partly because their most eminent witnesses were not 
personally affected by it, and would not condescend to 
plead it, feeling themselves, on the contrary, compelled by 
their self-respect to admit and even emphasize the fact that 
the Lord Chamberlain in the exercise of his duties as 
licenser had done those things which he ought not to have 
done, and left undone those things which he ought to have 
done. Mr Forbes Robertson and Sir Herbert Tree, for in- 
stance, had never felt the real disadvantage of which 
managers have to complain. This disadvantage was not 
put directly to the Committee; and though the managers 
are against me on the question of the censorship, I will now 
put their case for them as they should have put it them- 
selves, and as it can be read between the lines of their 
evidence when once the reader has the clue. 

The manager of a theatre is a man of business. He is not 
an expert in politics, religion, art, literature, philosophy, or 
law. He calls in a playwright just as he calls in a doctor, or 
consults a lawyer, or engages an architect, depending on the 
playwright's reputation and past achievements for a satis- 
factory result. A play by an unknown man may attract him 
sufficiently to induce him to give that unknown man a trial; 
but this does not occur often enough to be taken into ac- 
count: his normal course is to resort to a well-known author 
and take (mostly with misgiving) what he gets from him. 
Now this does not cause any anxiety to Mr Forbes Robert- 
son and Sir Herbert Tree, because they are only incidentally 
managers and men of business: primarily they are highly 
cultivated artists, quite capable of judging for themselves 
anything that the most abstruse playwright is likely to put 
before them. But the plain-sailing tradesman who must be 
taken as the typical manager (for the west end of London is 
not the^ whole theatrical world) is by no means equally quali- 
fied to judge whether a play is safe from prosecution or not. 
He may not understand it, may not like it, may not know 
what the author is driving at, may have no knowledge of the 
ethical, political, and sectarian controversies which may 


form the intellectual fabric of the play, and may honestly see 
nothing but an ordinary "character part" in a stage figure 
which may be a libellous and unmistakeable caricature of 
some eminent living person of whom he has never heard. 
Yet if he produces the play he is legally responsible just as if 
he had written it himself. Without protection he may find 
himself in the dock answering a charge of blasphemous libel, 
seditious libel, obscene libel, or all three together, not to 
mention the possibility of a private action for defamatory 
libel. His sole refuge is the opinion of the Examiner of Plays, 
his sole protection the licence of the Lord Chamberlain. A 
refusal to license does not hurt him, because he can produce 
another play: it is the author who suffers. The granting of 
the licence practically places him above the law; for though 
it may be legally possible to prosecute a licensed play, no- 
body ever dreams of doing it. The really responsible person, 
the Lord Chamberlain, could not be put into the dock; and 
the manager could not decently be convicted when he could 
produce in his defence a certificate from the chief officer of 
the King's Household that the play was a proper one. 

The censorship, then, provides the manager, at the 
negligible premium of two guineas per play, with an effect- 
ive insurance against the author getting him into trouble, 
and a complete relief from all conscientious responsibility 
for the character of the entertainment at his theatre. Under 
such circumstances, managers would be more than human 
if they did not regard the censorship as their most valuable 
privilege. This is the simple explanation of the rally of the 
managers and their Associations to the defence of the cen- 
sorship, of their reiterated resolutions of confidence in the 
Lord Chamberlain, of their presentations of plate, and, 
generally, of their enthusiastic contentment with the present 
system, all in such startling contrast to the denunciations of 
the censorship by the authors. It also explains why the 
managerial witnesses who had least to fear from the Censor 
were the most reluctant in his defence, whilst those whose 



practice it is to strain his indulgence to the utmost were al- 
most rapturous in his praise. There would be absolute un- 
animity among the managers in favor of the censorship if 
they were all simply tradesmen. Even those actor-managers 
who made no secret before the Committee of their contempt 
for the present operation of the censorship, and their indig- 
nation at being handed over to a domestic official as casual 
servants of a specially disorderly kind, demanded, not the 
abolition of the institution, but such a reform as might make 
it consistent with their dignity and unobstructive to their 
higher artistic aims. Feeling no personal need for protec- 
tion against the author, they perhaps forgot the plight of 
many a manager to whom the modern advanced drama is so 
much Greek ; but they did feel very strongly the need of 
being protected against Vigilance Societies and Munici- 
palities and common informers in a country where a large 
section of the community still believes that art of all kinds is 
inherently sinful. 

It may now be asked how a Liberal government had been 
persuaded to meddle at all with a question in which so many 
conflicting interests were involved, and which had probably 
no electoral value whatever. Many simple souls believed that 
it was because certain severely virtuous plays by Ibsen, by 
M. Brieux, by Mr Granville Barker, and by me, were sup- 
pressed by the censorship, whilst plays of a scandalous char- 
acter were licensed without demur. No doubt this influenced 
public opinion; but those who imagine that it could influ- 
ence British governments little know how remote from pub- 
lic opinion and how full of their own little family and party 
affairs British governments, both Liberal and Unionist, still 
are. The censorship scandal had existed for years without 
any parliamentary action being taken in the matter, and 
might have existed for as many more had it not happened 
in 1906 that Mr Robert Vernon Harcourt entered parlia- 
ment as a member of the Liberal Party, of which his father 
had been one of the leaders during the Gladstone era. Mr 


Harcourt was thus a young man marked out for office both 
by his parentage and his unquestionable social position as 
one of the governing class. Also, and this was much less 
usual, he was brilliantly clever, and was the author of a couple 
of plays of remarkable promise. Mr Harcourt informed his 
leaders that he was going to take up the subject of the censor- 
ship. The leaders, recognizing his hereditary right to a par- 
liamentary canter of some sort as a prelude to his public 
career, and finding that all the clever people seemed to be 
agreed that the censorship was an anti-Liberal institution 
and an abominable nuisance to boot, indulged him by ap- 
pointing a Select Committee of both Houses to investigate 
the subject. The then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 
Mr Herbert Samuel (now Postmaster-General), who had 
made his way into the Cabinet twenty years ahead of the 
usual age, was made Chairman. Mr Robert Harcourt him- 
self was of course a member. With him, representing the 
Commons, was Mr Alfred Mason, a man of letters who had 
won a seat in parliament as offhandedly as he has since dis- 
carded it, or as he once appeared on the stage to help me out 
of a difficulty in casting Arms and the Man when that piece 
was the newest thing in the advanced drama. There was Mr 
Hugh Law, an Irish member, son of an Irish Chancellor, 
presenting a keen and joyous front to English intellectual 
sloth. Above all, there was Colonel Lockwood to represent 
at one stroke the Opposition and the average popular man. 
This he did by standing up gallantly for the Censor, to whose 
support the Opposition was in no way committed, and by 
visibly defying the most cherished conventions of the aver- 
age man with a bunch of carnations in his buttonhole as large 
as a dinner-plate, which would have made a Bunthorne 
blench, and which very nearly did make Mr Granville Bar- 
ker (who has an antipathy to the scent of carnations) faint. 


The House of Lords then proceeded to its selection. As 
fashionable drama in Paris and London concerns itself al- 



most exclusively with adultery, the first choice fell on Lord 
Gorell, who had for many years presided over the Divorce 
Court. Lord Plymouth, who had been Chairman to the 
Shakespear Memorial project (now merged in the Shake- 
spear Memorial National Theatre), was obviously marked 
out for selection ; and it was generally expected that the Lords 
Lytton and Esher, who had taken a prominent part in the 
same movement, would have been added. This expectation 
was not fulfilled. Instead, Lord Willoughby de Broke, who 
had distinguished himself as an amateur actor, was selected 
along with Lord Newton, whose special qualifications for 
the Committee, if he had any, were unknown to the public. 
Finally Lord Ribblesdale, the argute son of a Scotch mother, 
was thrown in to make up for any shortcoming in intellec- 
tual subtlety that might arise in the case of his younger col- 
leagues; and this completed the two teams. 

In England, thanks chiefly to the censorship, the theatre 
is not respected. It is indulged and despised as a department 
of what is politely called gaiety. It is therefore not surprising 
that the majority of the Committee began by taking its work 
uppishly and carelessly. When it discovered that the con- 
temporary drama, licensed by the Lord Chamberlain, in- 
cluded plays which could be described only behind closed 
doors, and in the discomfort which attends discussions of 
very nasty subjects between men of widely different ages, 
it calmly puts its own convenience before its public duty by 
ruling that there should be no discussion of particular plays, 
much as if a committee on temperance were to rule that 
drunkenness was not a proper subject of conversation among 

This was a bad beginning. Everybody knew that in Eng- 
land the censorship would not be crushed by the weight of the 
constitutional argument against it, heavy as that was, unless 
it were also brought home to the Committee and to the pub- 


lie that it had sanctioned and protected the very worst prac- 
ticable examples of the kind of play it professed to extirpate. 
For it must be remembered that the other half of the practi- 
cal side of the case, dealing with the merits of the plays it had 
suppressed, could never secure a unanimous assent. If the 
Censor had suppressed Hamlet, as he most certainly would 
have done had it been submitted to him as a new play, he 
would have been supported by a large body of people to 
whom incest is a tabooed subject which must not be men- 
tioned on the stage or anywhere else outside a criminal court. 
Hamlet, Oedipus, and The Cenci, Mrs Warren's Profes- 
sion, Brieux's Maternite, and Les Avari6s, Maeterlinck's 
Monna Vanna and Mr Granville Barker's Waste may or 
may not be great poems, or edifying sermons, or important 
documents, or charming romances: our tribal citizens know 
nothing about that and do not want to know anything: all 
that they do know is that incest, prostitution, abortion, con- 
tagious diseases, and nudity are improper, and that all con- 
versations, or books, or plays in which they are discussed are 
improper conversations, improper books, improper plays, 
and should not be allowed. The Censor may prohibit all such 
plays with complete certainty that there will be a chorus of 
"Quite right too" sufficient to drown the protests of the few 
who know better. The Achilles heel of the censorship is 
therefore not the fine plays it has suppressed, but the abomin- 
able plays it has licensed: plays which the Committee itself 
had to turn the public out of the room and close the doors 
before it could discuss, and which I myself have found it im- 
possible to expose in the press because no editor of a paper 
or magazine intended for general family reading could ad- 
mit into his columns the baldest narration of the stories which 
the Censor has not only tolerated but expressly certified as 
fitting for presentation on the stage. When the Committee 
ruled out this part of the case it shook the confidence of the 
authors in its impartiality and its seriousness. Of course it 
was not able to enforce its ruling thoroughly. Plays which 
were merely lightminded and irresponsible in their vicious- 



ness were repeatedly mentioned by Mr Harcourt and others. 
But the really detestable plays, which would have damned 
the censorship beyond all apology or salvation, were never 
referred to; and the moment Mr Harcourt or anyone else 
made the Committee uncomfortable by a move in their 
direction, the ruling was appealed to at once, and the cen- 
sorship saved. 

It was part of this nervous dislike of the unpleasant part 
of its business that led to the comic incident of the Com- 
mittee's sudden discovery that I had insulted it, and its sus- 
pension of its investigation for the purpose of elaborately 
insulting me back again. Comic to the lookers-on, that is; 
for the majority of the Committee made no attempt to con- 
ceal the fact that they were wildly angry with me; and I, 
though my public experience and skill in acting enabled me 
to maintain an appearance of imperturbable good-humor, 
was equally furious. The friction began as follows. 

The precedents for the conduct of the Committee were 
to be found in the proceedings of the Committee of 1892. 
That Committee, no doubt recognizing the absurdity of call- 
ing on distinguished artists to give their views before it, and 
then refusing to allow them to state their views except in 
nervous replies to such questions as it might suit members 
to put to them, allowed Sir Henry Irving and Sir John Hare 
to prepare and read written statements, and formally in- 
vited them to read them to the Committee before being ques- 
tioned. I accordingly prepared such a statement. For the 
greater convenience of the Committee, I offered to have this 
statement printed at my own expense, and to supply the mem- 
bers with copies. The offer was accepted; and the copies 
supplied. I also offered to provide the Committee with copies 
of those plays of mine which had been refused a licence by 
the Lord Chamberlain. That offer also was accepted; and 
the books duly supplied. 

As far as I can guess, the next thing that happened was 


that some timid or unawakened member of the Committee 
read my statement and was frightened or scandalized out of 
his wits by it. At all events it is certain that the majority of 
the Committee allowed themselves to be persuaded to re- 
fuse to allow any statement to be read; but to avoid the ap- 
pearance of pointing this expressly at me, the form adopted 
was a resolution to adhere strictly to precedent, the Commit- 
tee being then unaware that the precedents were on my side. 
Accordingly, when I appeared before the Committee, and 
proposed to read my statement "according to precedent," 
the Committee was visibly taken aback. The Chairman was 
bound by the letter of the decision arrived at to allow me to 
read my statement, since that course was according to pre- 
cedent; but as this was exactly what the decision was meant 
to prevent, the majority of the Committee would have re- 
garded this hoisting of them with their own petard as a breach 
of faith on the part of the Chairman, who, I infer, was not in 
agreement with the suppressive majority. There was no- 
thing for it, after a somewhat awkward pause, but to clear 
me and the public out of the room and reconsider the situa- 
tion in camera. When the doors were opened again I was in- 
formed simply that the Committee would not hear my state- 
ment. But as the Committee could not very decently refuse 
my evidence altogether, the Chairman, with a printed copy 
of my statement in his hand as "proof," was able to come to 
the rescue to some extent by putting to me a series of ques- 
tions to which no doubt I might have replied by taking 
another copy out of my pocket, and quoting my statement 
paragraph by paragraph, as some of the later witnesses did. 
But as in offering the Committee my statement for burial in 
their bluebook I had made a considerable sacrifice, being 
able to secure greater publicity for it by independent publi- 
cation on my own account ; and as, further, the circumstances 
of the refusal made it offensive enough to take all heart 
out of the scrupulous consideration with which I had so 
far treated the Committee, I was not disposed to give its 
majority a second chance, or to lose the opportunity offered 



me by the questions to fire an additional broadside into the 
censorship. I pocketed my statement, and answered the 
questions viva vote. At the conclusion of this, my examina- 
tion-in-chief, the Committee adjourned, asking me to present 
myself again for (virtually) cross-examination. But this 
cross-examination never came off, as the sequel will shew. 

The refusal of the Committee to admit my statement had 
not unnaturally created the impression that it must be a scan- 
dalous document; and a lively demand for copies at once set 
in. And among the very first applicants were members of 
the majority which had carried the decision to exclude the 
document. They had given so little attention to the business 
that they did not know, or had forgotten, that they had al- 
ready been supplied with copies at their own request. At all 
events, they came to me publicly and cleaned me out of the 
handful of copies I had provided for distribution to the press. 
And after the sitting it was intimated to me that yet more 
copies were desired for the use of the Committee: a demand, 
under the circumstances, of breath-bereaving coolness. At 
the same time, a brisk demand arose outside the Committee, 
not only among people who were anxious to read what I had 
to say on the subject, but among victims of the craze for col- 
lecting first editions, copies of privately circulated pamph- 
lets, and other real or imaginary rarities. Such maniacs will 
cheerfully pay five guineas for any piece of discarded old 
rubbish of mine when they will not pay as many shillings 
for a clean new copy of it, because everyone else can get 
it for the same price too. 

The day after the refusal of the Committee to face my 
statement, I transferred the scene of action to the columns 
of^The Times, which did yeoman *s service to the public on 
this, as on many other occasions, by treating the question as 
a public one without the least regard to the supposed sus- 
ceptibilities of the Court on the one side, or the avowed pre- 
judices of the Free Churches or the interests of the managers 


or theatrical speculators on the other. The Times published 
the summarized conclusions of my statement, and gave me 
an opportunity of saying as much as it was then advisable to 
say of what had occurred. For it must be remembered that, 
however impatient and contemptuous I might feel of the in- 
tellectual cowardice shewn by the majority of the Committee 
face to face with myself, it was none the less necessary to keep 
up its prestige in every possible way, not only for the sake of 
the dignity and importance of the matter with which it had 
to deal, and in the hope that the treatment of subsequent wit- 
nesses and the final report might make amends for a feeble 
beginning, but also out of respect and consideration for the 
minority. For it is fair to say that the maj ority was never more 
than a bare majority, and that the worst thing the Committee 
did the exclusion of references to particular plays was 
perpetrated in the absence of the Chairman. 

I, therefore, had to treat the Committee in The Times 
very much better than its majority deserved, an injustice for 
which I now apologize. I did not, however, resist the tempta- 
tion to hint, quite good-humoredly, that my politeness to the 
Committee had cost me quite enough already, and that I was 
not prepared to supply the members of the Committee, or 
anyone else, with extra copies merely as collectors' curiosities. 


Then the fat was in the fire. The majority, chaffed for its 
eagerness to obtain copies of scarce pamphlets retailable at 
five guineas, went dancing mad. When I presented myself, 
as requested, for cross-examination, I found the doors of the 
Committee room shut, and the corridors of the House of 
Lords filled by a wondering crowd, to whom it had^ some- 
how leaked out that something terrible was happening in- 
side. It could not be another licensed play too scandalous to 
be discussed in public, because the Committee had decided 
to discuss no more of these examples of the Censor's notions 
of purifying the stage; and what else the Committee might 
have to discuss that might not be heard by all the world was 
not easily guessable. 



Without suggesting that the confidence of the Com- 
mittee was in any way violated by any of its members further 
than was absolutely necessary to clear them from suspicion 
of complicity in the scene which followed, I think I may ven- 
ture to conjecture what was happening. It was felt by the 
majority, first, that it must be cleared at all costs of the im- 
putation of having procured more than one copy each of my 
statement, and that one not from any interest in an undesir- 
able document by an irreverent author, but in the reluctant 
discharge of its solemn public duty; second, that a terrible 
example must be made of me by the most crushing public 
snub in the power of the Committee to administer. To throw 
my wretched little pamphlet at my head and to kick me out 
of the room was the passionate impulse which prevailed in 
spite of all the remonstrances of the Commoners, seasoned 
to the give-and-take of public life, and of the single peer who 
kept his head. The others, for the moment, had no heads to 
keep. And the fashion in which they proposed to wreak their 
vengeance was as follows. 

I was to be admitted, as a lamb to the slaughter, and 
allowed to take my place as if for further examination. The 
Chairman was then to inform me coldly that the Committee 
did not desire to have anything more to say to me. The mem- 
bers were thereupon solemnly to hand me back the copies of 
my statement as so much waste paper, and I was to be suf- 
fered to slink away with what countenance I could maintain 
in such disgrace. 

But this plan required the active co-operation of every 
member of the Committee; and whilst the majority regarded 
it as an august and impressive vindication of the majesty of 
parliament, the minority regarded it with equal conviction 
as a puerile tomfoolery, and declined altogether to act their 
allotted parts in it. Besides, they did not all want to part with 
the books. For instance, Mr Hugh Law, being an Irishman, 
with an Irishman's sense of how to behave like a gallant 
gentleman on occasion, was determined to be able to assure 


me that nothing should induce him to give up my statement 
or prevent him from obtaining and cherishing as many copies 
as possible. (I quote this as an example to the House of Lords 
of the right thing to say in such emergencies.) So the pro- 
gram had to be modified. The minority could not prevent the 
enraged majority from refusing to examine me further; nor 
could the Chairman refuse to communicate that decision to 
me. Neither could the minority object to the secretary hand- 
ing me back such copies as he could collect from the major- 
ity. And at that the matter was left. The doors were opened; 
the audience trooped in; I was called to my place in the dock 
(so to speak) ; and all was ready for the sacrifice. 


Alas! the majority reckoned without Colonel Lockwood. 
That hardy and undaunted veteran refused to shirk his share 
in the scene merely because the minority was recalcitrant 
and the majority perhaps subject to stage fright. When Mr 
Samuel had informed me that the Committee had no further 
questions to ask me with an urbanity which gave the public 
no clue as to the temper of the majority; when I had jumped 
up with the proper air of relief and gratitude; when the secre- 
tary had handed me his little packet of books with an affa- 
bility which effectually concealed his dramatic function as 
executioner; when the audience was simply disappointed at 
being baulked of the entertainment of hearing Mr Robert 
Harcourt cross-examine me; in short, when the situation 
was all but saved by the tact of the Chairman and secretary, 
Colonel Lockwood rose, with all his carnations blazing, and 
gave away the whole case by handing me, with impressive 
simplicity and courtesy, his two copies of the precious state- 
ment. And I believe that if he had succeeded in securing ten, 
he would have handed them all back to me with the most sin- 
cere conviction that every one of the ten must prove a crush- 
ing addition to the weight of my discomfiture. I still cherish 
that second copy, a little blue-bound pamphlet, methodically 
autographed "Lockwood B" among my most valued liter- 
ary trophies. 



An innocent lady told me afterwards that she never knew 
that I could smile so beautifully, and that she thought it 
shewed very good taste on my part. I was not conscious of 
smiling; but I should have embraced the Colonel had I 
dared. As it was, I turned expectantly to his colleagues, 
mutely inviting them to follow his example. But there was 
only one Colonel Lockwood on that Committee. No eye 
met mine except minority eyes, dancing with mischief. There 
was nothing more to be said. I went home to my morning's 
work, and returned in the afternoon to receive the apologies 
of the minority for the conduct of the majority, and to see 
Mr Granville Barker, overwhelmed by the conscience- 
stricken politeness of the now almost abject Committee, 
and by a powerful smell of carnations, heading the long list 
of playwrights who came there to testify against the censor- 
ship, and whose treatment, I am happy to say, was every- 
thing they could have desired. 

After all, ridiculous as the scene was, Colonel Lock- 
wood's simplicity and courage were much more serviceable 
to his colleagues than their own inept coup de theatre would 
have been if he had not spoiled it. It was plain to everyone 
that he had acted in entire good faith, without a thought as 
to these apparently insignificant little books being of any 
importance or having caused me or anybody else any trouble, 
and that he was wounded in his most sensitive spot by the 
construction my Times letter had put on his action. And in 
Colonel Lockwood's case one saw the case of his party on 
the Committee. They had simply been thoughtless in the 

I hope nobody will suppose that this in any way exoner- 
ates them. When people accept public service for one of the 
most vital duties that can arise in our society, they have no 
right to be thoughtless. In spite of the fun of the scene on the 
surface, my public sense was, and still is, very deeply offended 
by it. It made an end for me of the claim of the majority to be 
taken seriously. When the Government comes to deal with 
the question, as it presumably will before long, I invite it to 


be guided by the Chairman, the minority, and by the wit- 
nesses according to their weight, and to pay no attention 
whatever to those recommendations which were obviously 
inserted solely to conciliate the majority and get the report 
through and the Committee done with. 

My evidence will be found in the Bluebook, pp. 46-53. 
And here is the terrible statement which the Committee 
went through so much to suppress. 




I AM by profession a playwright. I have been in practice 
since 1892. I am a member of the Managing Com- 
mittee of the Society of Authors and of the Dramatic 
Sub-Committee of that body. I have written nineteen plays, 
some of which have been translated and performed in all 
European countries except Turkey, Greece, and Portugal. 
They have been performed extensively in America. Three 
of them have been refused licences by the Lord Chamber- 
lain. In one case a licence has since been granted. The other 
two are still unlicensed. I have suffered both in pocket and 
reputation by the action of the Lord Chamberlain. In other 
countries I have not come into conflict with the censorship 
except in Austria, where the production of a comedy of mine 
was postponed for a year because it alluded to the part taken 
by Austria in the Servo-Bulgarian war. This comedy was 
not one of the plays suppressed in England by the Lord 
Chamberlain. One of the plays so suppressed was prosecuted 
in America by the police in consequence of an immense 
crowd of disorderly persons having been attracted to the 
first performance by the Lord Chamberlain's condemnation 
of it; but on appeal to a higher court it was decided that the 
representation was lawful and the intention innocent, since 
when it has been repeatedly performed. 

I am not an ordinary playwright in general practice. I 
am a specialist in immoral and heretical plays. My reputa- 
tion has been gained by my persistent struggle to force the 
public to reconsider its morals. In particular, I regard much 
current morality as to economic and sexual relations as dis- 
astrously wrong; and I regard certain doctrines of the Chris- 
tian religion as understood in England today with abhor- 
rence. I write plays with the deliberate object of converting 
the nation to my opinions in these matters. I have no other 
effectual incentive to write plays, as I am not dependent on 
the theatre for my livelihood. If I were prevented from pro- 



ducing immoral and heretical plays, I should cease to write 
for the theatre, and propagate my views from the platform 
and through books. I mention these facts to shew that I have 
a special interest in the achievement by my profession of 
those rights of liberty of speech and conscience which are 
matters of course in other professions. I object to censorship 
not merely because the existing form of it grievously injures 
and hinders me individually, but on public grounds. 


In dealing with the question of the censorship, every- 
thing depends on the correct use of the word immorality, 
and a careful discrimination between the powers of a magis- 
trate or judge to administer a code, and those of a censor to 
please himself. 

Whatever is contrary to established manners and customs 
is immoral. An immoral act or doctrine is not necessarily a 
sinful one: on the contrary, every advance in thought and 
conduct is by definition immoral until it has converted the 
majority* For this reason it is of the most enormous import- 
ance that immorality should be protected jealously against 
the attacks of those who have no standard except the standard 
of custom, and who regard any attack on custom that is, 
on morals as an attack on society, on religion, and on 

A censor is never intentionally a protector of immorality. 
He always aims at the protection of morality. Now morality 
is extremely valuable to society. It imposes conventional con- 
duct on the great mass of persons who are incapable of orig- 
inal ethical judgment, and who would be quite lost if they 
were not in leading-strings devised by lawgivers, philoso- 
phers, prophets, and poets for their guidance. But morality 
is not dependent on censorship for protection. It is already 
powerfully fortified by the magistracy and the whole body 
of law. Blasphemy, indecency, libel, treason, sedition, ob- 
scenity, profanity, and all the other evils which a censorship 
is ^supposed to avert, are punishable by the civil magistrate 
with all the severity of vehement prejudice. Morality has not 


only every engine that lawgivers can devise in full operation 
for its protection, but also that enormous weight of public 
opinion enforced by social ostracism which is stronger than 
all the statutes. A censor pretending to protect morality is 
like a child pushing the cushions of a railway carriage to give 
itself the sensation of making the train travel at sixty miles 
an hour. It is immorality, not morality, that needs protection : 
it is morality, not immorality, that needs restraint; for moral- 
ity, with all the dead weight of human inertia and supersti- 
tion to hang on the back of the pioneer, and all the malice of 
vulgarity and prejudice to threaten him, is responsible for 
many persecutions and many martyrdoms. 

Persecutions and martyrdoms, however, are trifles com- 
pared to the mischief done by censorships in delaying the 
general march of enlightenment. This can be brought home 
to us by imagining what would have been the effect of apply- 
ing to all literature the censorship we still apply to the stage. 
The works of Linnaeus and the evolutionists of 1790-1830, 
of Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, Helmholtz, Tyndall, Spencer, 
Carlyle, Ruskin, and Samuel Butler, would not have been 
published, as they were all immoral and heretical in the very 
highest degree, and gave pain to many worthy and pious 
people. They are at present condemned by the Greek and 
Roman Catholic censorships as unfit for general reading. A 
censorship of conduct would have been equally disastrous. 
The disloyalty of Hampden and of Washington; the revolt- 
ing immorality of Luther in not only marrying when he was 
a priest, but actually marrying a nun; the heterodoxy of 
Galileo; the shocking blasphemies and sacrileges of Maho- 
met against the idols whom he dethroned to make way for 
his conception of one god; the still more startling blasphemy 
of Jesus when He declared God to be the son of man and 
Himself to be the son of God, are all examples of shocking 
immoralities (every immorality shocks somebody), the sup- 
pression and extinction of which would have been more dis- 
astrous than the utmost mischief that can be conceived as 
ensuing from the toleration of vice. 


These facts, glaring as they are, are disguised by the pro- 
motion of immoralities into moralities which is constantly 
going on. Christianity and Mahometanism, once thought 
of and dealt with exactly as Anarchism is thought of and 
dealt with today, have become established religions; and 
fresh immoralities are persecuted in their name. The truth 
is that the vast majority of persons professing these religions 
have never been anything but simple moralists. The respec- 
table Englishman who is a Christian because he was born in 
Clapham would be a Mahometan for the cognate reason if 
he had been born in Constantinople. He has never willingly 
tolerated immorality. He did not adopt any innovation until 
it had become moral; and then he adopted it, not on its 
merits, but solely because it had become moral. In doing so 
he never realized that it had ever been immoral: conse- 
quently its early struggles taught him no lesson; and he has 
opposed the next step in human progress as indignantly as if 
neither manners, customs, nor thought had ever changed 
since the beginning of the world. Toleration must be im- 
posed on him as a mystic and painful duty by his spiritual 
and political leaders, or he will condemn the world to stag- 
nation, which is the penalty of an inflexible morality. 

This must be done all the more arbitrarily because it is 
not possible to make the ordinary moral man understand 
what toleration and liberty really mean. He will accept them 
verbally with alacrity, even with enthusiasm, because the 
word toleration has been moralized by eminent Whigs; but 
what he means by toleration is toleration of doctrines that he 
considers enlightened, and, by liberty, liberty to do what he 
considers right: that is, he does not mean toleration or 
liberty at all; for there is no need to tolerate what appears en- 
lightened or to claim liberty to do what most people consider 
right. Toleration and liberty have no sense or use except as 
toleration of opinions that are considered damnable, and 
liberty to do what seems wrong. Setting Englishmen free to 
marry their deceased wife's sisters is not tolerated by the 



people who approve of it, but by the people who regard it as 
incestuous. Catholic Emancipation and the admission of 
Jews to parliament needed no toleration from Catholics and 
Jews: the toleration they needed was that of the people who 
regarded the one measure as a facilitation of idolatry, and 
the other as a condonation of the crucifixion. Clearly such 
toleration is not clamored for by the multitude or by the 
press which reflects its prejudices. It is essentially one of 
those abnegations of passion and prejudice which the 
common man submits to because uncommon men whom he 
respects as wiser than himself assure him that it must be so, 
or the higher affairs of human destiny will suffer. 

Such submission is the more difficult because the argu- 
ments against tolerating immorality are the same as the 
arguments against tolerating murder and theft; and this is 
why the Censor seems to the inconsiderate as obviously de- 
sirable a functionary as the police magistrate. But there is 
this simple and tremendous difference between the cases: 
that whereas no evil can conceivably result from the total 
suppression of murder and theft, and all communities 
prosper in direct proportion to such suppression, the total 
suppression of immorality, especially in matters of religion 
and sex, would stop enlightenment, and produce what used 
to be called a Chinese civilization until the Chinese lately 
took to immoral courses by permitting railway contractors 
to desecrate the graves of their ancestors, and their soldiers 
to wear clothes which indecently revealed the fact that they 
had legs and waists and even posteriors. At about the same 
moment a few bold Englishwomen ventured on the im- 
morality of riding astride their horses, a practice that has 
since established itself so successfully that before another 
generation has passed away there may not be a new side- 
saddle in England, or a woman who could use it if there was. 

Accordingly, there has risen among wise and far-sighted 
men a perception of the need for setting certain departments 
of human activity entirely free from legal interference. This 



has nothing to do with any sympathy these liberators may 
themselves have with immoral views. A man with the strong- 
est conviction of the Divine ordering of the universe and of 
the superiority of monarchy to all forms of government may 
nevertheless quite consistently and conscientiously be ready 
to lay down his life for the right of every man to advocate 
Atheism or Republicanism if he believes in them. An attack 
on morals may turn out to be the salvation of the race. A 
hundred years ago nobody foresaw that Tom Paine's centen- 
ary would be the subject of a laudatory special article in The 
Times; and only a few understood that the persecution of his 
works and the transportation of men for the felony of read- 
ing them was a mischievous mistake. Even less, perhaps, 
could they have guessed that Proudhon, who became 
notorious by his essay entitled "What is Property? It is 
Theft," would have received, on the like occasion and in 
the same paper, a respectful consideration which nobody 
would now dream of according to Lord Liverpool or Lord 
Brougham. Nevertheless there was a mass of evidence to 
shew that such a development was not only possible but fairly 
probable, and that the risks of suppressing liberty of propa- 
ganda were far graver than the risk of Paine's or Proudhon's 
writings wrecking civilization. Now there was no such evi- 
dence in favor of tolerating the cutting of throats and the 
robbing of tills. No case whatever can be made out for the 
statement that a nation cannot do without common thieves 
and homicidal ruffians. But an overwhelming case can be 
made out for the statement that no nation can prosper or 
even continue to exist without heretics and advocates of 
shockingly immoral doctrines. The Inquisition and the 
Star Chamber, which were nothing but censorships, made 
ruthless war on impiety and immorality- The result was once 
familiar to Englishmen, though of late years it seems to have 
been forgotten. It cost England a revolution to get rid of the 
Star Chamber. Spain did not get rid of the Inquisition, and 
paid for that omission by becoming a barely third-rate 
power politically, and intellectually no power at all, in the 


Europe she had once dominated as the mightiest of the 

Christian empires. 


But the large toleration these considerations dictate has 
limits. For example, though we tolerate, and rightly toler- 
ate, the propaganda of Anarchism as apolitical theory which 
embraces all that is valuable in the doctrine of Laisser-Faire 
and the method of Free Trade as well as all that is shocking 
in the views of Bakounine, we clearly cannot, or at all events 
will not, tolerate assassination of rulers on the ground that it 
is "propaganda by deed" or sociological experiment. A play 
inciting to such an assassination cannot claim the privileges 
of heresy or immorality, because no case can be made out in 
support of assassination as an indispensable instrument of 
progress. Now it happens that we have in the Julius Caesar 
of Shakespear a play which the Tsar of Russia or the Gover- 
nor-General of India would hardly care to see performed in 
their capitals just now. It is an artistic treasure; but it glori- 
fies a murder which Goethe described as the silliest crime 
ever committed. It may quite possibly have helped the 
regicides of 1649 to see themselves, as it certainly helped 
generations of Whig statesmen to see them, in a heroic 
light; and it unquestionably vindicates and ennobles a con- 
spirator who assassinated the head of the Roman State not 
because he abused his position but solely because he occu- 
pied it, thus affirming the extreme republican principle that 
all kings, good or bad, should be killed because kingship and 
freedom cannot live together. Under certain circumstances 
this vindication and ennoblement might act as an incite- 
ment to an actual assassination as well as to Plutarchian re- 
publicanism; for it is one thing to advocate republicanism 
or royalism: it is quite another to make a hero of Brutus or 
Ravaillac, or a heroine of Charlotte Corday. Assassination 
is the extreme form of censorship; and it seems hard to 
justify an incitement to it on anti-censorial principles. The 
very people who would have scouted the notion of prohibit- 
ing the performances of Julius Caesar at His Majesty's 



Theatre in London last year, might now entertain very 
seriously a proposal to exclude Indians from them, and to 
suppress the play completely in Calcutta and Dublin; for if 
the assassin of Caesar was a hero, why not the assassins of 
Lord Frederick Cavendish, Presidents Lincoln and McKin- 
ley, and Sir Curzon Wyllie? Here is a strong case for some 
constitutional means of preventing the performance of a 
play. True, it is an equally strong case for preventing the 
circulation of the Bible, which was always in the hands of our 
regicides; but as the Roman Catholic Church does not hesi- 
tate to accept that consequence of the censorial principle, it 
does not invalidate the argument. 

Take another actual case. A modern comedy, Arms and 
The Man, though not a comedy of politics, is nevertheless 
so far historical that it reveals the unacknowledged fact that 
as the Servo-Bulgarian War of 1885 was m ^ch more than a 
struggle between the Servians and Bulgarians, the troops 
engaged were officered by two European Powers of the first 
magnitude. In consequence, the performance of the play 
was for some time forbidden in Vienna, and more recently it 
gave offence in Rome at a moment when popular feeling was 
excited as to the relations of Austria with the Balkan States. 
Now if a comedy so remote from political passion as Arms 
and The Man can, merely because it refers to political facts, 
become so inconvenient and inopportune that Foreign 
Offices take the trouble to have its production postponed, 
what may not be the effect of what is called a patriotic drama 
produced at a moment when the balance is quivering be- 
tween peace and war? Is there not something to be said for a 
political censorship, if not for a moral one? May not those 
continental governments who leave the stage practically free 
in every other respect, but muzzle it politically, be justified 
by the practical exigencies of the situation ? 



The answer is that a pamphlet, a newspaper article, or a 
resolution moved at a political meeting can do all the mis- 

chief that a play can, and often more; yet we do not set up a 
permanent censorship of the press or of political meetings* 
Any journalist may publish an article, any demagogue may 
deliver a speech without giving notice to the government or 
obtaining its licence. The risk of such freedom is great; but 
as it is the price of our political liberty, we think it worth 
paying. We may abrogate it in emergencies by a Coercion 
Act, a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, or a proclama- 
tion of martial law, just as we stop the traffic in a street dur- 
ing a fire, or shoot thieves at sight if they loot after an earth- 
quake. But when the emergency is past, liberty is restored 
everywhere except in the theatre. The Act of 1 843 is a per- 
manent Coercion Act for the theatre, a permanent suspen- 
sion of the Habeas Corpus Act as far as plays are concerned, 
a permanent proclamation of martial law with a single official 
substituted for a court martial. It is, in fact, assumed that 
actors, playwrights, and theatre managers are dangerous 
and dissolute characters whose existence creates a chronic 
state of emergency, and who must be treated as earthquake 
looters are treated. It is not necessary now to discredit this 
assumption. It was broken down by the late Sir Henry 
Irving when he finally shamed the Government into extend- 
ing to his profession the official recognition enjoyed by the 
other branches of fine art. To-day we have on the roll of 
knighthood actors, authors, and managers. The rogue and 
vagabond theory of the depravity of the theatre is as dead 
officially as it is in general society; and with it has perished 
the sole excuse for the Act of 1 843 and for the denial to the 
theatre of the liberties secured, at far greater social risk, to 
the press and the platform. 

There is no question here of giving the theatre any larger 
liberties than the press and the platform, or of claiming 
larger powers for Shakespear to eulogize Brutus than Lord 
Rosebery has to eulogize Cromwell. The abolition of the 
censorship does not involve the abolition of the magistrate 
and of the whole civil and criminal code. On the contrary, it 
would make the theatre more effectually subject to them 


than it is at present; for once a play now runs the gauntlet of 
the censorship, it is practically placed above the law. It is al- 
most humiliating to have to demonstrate the essential differ- 
ence between a censor and a magistrate or a sanitary in- 
spector; but it is impossible to ignore the carelessness with 
which even distinguished critics of the theatre assume that 
all the arguments proper to the support of a magistracy and 
body of jurisprudence apply equally to a censorship. 

A magistrate has laws to administer: a censor has no- 
thing but his own opinion. A judge leaves the question of 
guilt to the jury: the Censor is jury and judge as well as law- 
giver. A magistrate may be strongly prejudiced against an 
atheist or an anti-vaccinator, just as a sanitary inspector may 
have formed a careful opinion that drains are less healthy 
than cesspools; but the magistrate must allow the atheist to 
affirm instead of to swear, and must grant the anti-vaccinator 
an exemption certificate, when their demands are lawfully 
made; and in cities the inspector must compel the builder to 
make drains and must prosecute him if he makes cesspools. 
The law may be only the intolerance of the community; but 
it is a defined and limited intolerance. The limitation is 
sometimes carried so far that a judge cannot inflict the 
penalty for housebreaking on a burglar who can prove that 
he found the door open and therefore made only an unlawful 
entry. On the other hand, it is sometimes so vague, as for ex- 
ample in the case of the American law against obscenity, 
that it makes the magistrate virtually a censor. But in the 
main a citizen can ascertain what he may do and what he 
may not do; and, though no one knows better than a magis- 
trate that a single ill-conducted family may demoralize a 
whole street, no magistrate can imprison or otherwise re- 
strain its members on the ground that their immorality may 
corrupt their neighbors. He can prevent any citizen from 
carrying certain specified weapons, but not from handling 
pokers, table-knives, bricks or bottles of corrosive fluid, on 
the ground that he might use them to commit murder or in- 
flict malicious injury. He has no general power to prevent 


citizens from selling unhealthy or poisonous substances, or 
judging for themselves what substances are unhealthy and 
what wholesome, what poisonous and what innocuous: 
what he can do is to prevent anybody who has not a specific 
qualification from selling certain specified poisons of which 
a schedule is kept. Nobody is forbidden to sell minerals 
without a licence; but everybody is forbidden to sell silver 
without a licence. When the law has forgotten some atrocious 
sin for instance, contracting marriage whilst suffering 
from contagious disease the magistrate cannot arrest or 
punish the wrongdoer, however he may abhor his wicked- 
ness. In short, no man is lawfully at the mercy of the magis- 
trate's personal caprice, prejudice, ignorance, superstition, 
temper, stupidity, resentment, timidity, ambition, or pri- 
vate conviction. But a playwright's livelihood, his reputation, 
and his inspiration and mission are at the personal mercy of 
the Censor. The two do not stand, as the criminal and the 
judge stand, in the presence of a law that binds them both 
equally, and was made by neither of them, but by the delib- 
erate collective wisdom of the community. The only law 
that affects them is the Act of 1843, which empowers one of 
them to do absolutely and finally what he likes with the 
other's work. And when it is remembered that the slave in 
this case is the man whose profession is that of Eschylus and 
Euripides, of Shakespear and Goethe, of Tolstoy and Ibsen, 
and the master the holder of a party appointment which by 
the nature of its duties practically excludes the possibility of 
its acceptance by a serious statesman or great lawyer, it will 
be seen that the playwrights are justified in reproaching the 
framers of that Act for having failed not only to appreciate 
the immense importance of the theatre as a most powerful 
instrument for teaching the nation how and what to think 
and feel, but even to conceive that those who make their liv- 
ing by the theatre are normal human beings with the com- 
mon rights of English citizens. In this extremity of incon- 
siderateness it is not surprising that they also did not trouble 
themselves to study the difference between a censor and a 



magistrate. And it will be found that almost all the people 
who disinterestedly defend the censorship today are defend- 
ing him on the assumption that there is no constitutional dif- 
ference between him and any other functionary whose duty 
it is to restrain crime and disorder. 

One further difference remains to be noted. As a magis- 
trate grows old his mind may change or decay; but the law 
remains the same. The censorship of the theatre fluctuates 
with every change in the views and character of the man who 
exercises it. And what this implies can only be appreciated 
by those who can imagine what the effect on the mind must 
be of the duty of reading through every play that is produced 
in the kingdom year in, year out. 


What may be called the high political case against cen- 
sorship as a principle is now complete. The pleadings are 
those which have already freed books and pulpits and poli- 
tical platforms in England from censorship, if not from 
occasional legal persecution. The stage alone remains under 
a censorship of a grotesquely unsuitable kind. No play can 
be performed if the Lord Chamberlain happens to dis- 
approve of it. And the Lord Chamberlain's functions have 
no sort of relationship to dramatic literature. A great judge 
of literature, a far-seeing statesman, a born champion of 
liberty of conscience and intellectual integrity say a Mil- 
ton, a Chesterfield, a Bentham would be a very bad Lord 
Chamberlain: so bad, in fact, that his exclusion from such a 
post may be regarded as decreed by natural law. On the 
other hand, a good Lord Chamberlain would be a stickler 
for morals in the narrowest sense, a busy-body, a man to 
whom a matter of two inches in the length of a gentleman's 
sword or the absence of a feather from a lady's head-dress 
would be a graver matter than the Habeas Corpus Act. The 
Lord Chancellor, as Censor of the theatre, is a direct descend- 
ant of the King's Master of the Revels, appointed in 1544 
by Henry VIIL to keep order among the players and musi- 
cians of that day when they performed at Court, This first 


appearance of the theatrical censor in politics as the whipper- 
in of the player, with its conception of the player as a rich 
man's servant hired to amuse him, and, outside his profes- 
sional duties, as a gay, disorderly, anarchic spoilt child, half 
privileged, half outlawed, probably as much vagabond as 
actor, is the real foundation of the subjection of the whole 
profession, actors, managers, authors and all, to the despotic 
authority of an officer whose business it is to preserve de- 
corum among menials. It must be remembered that it was 
not until a hundred years later, in the reaction against the 
Puritans, that a woman could appear on the English stage 
without being pelted off as the Italian actresses were. The 
theatrical profession was regarded as a shameless one; and 
it is only of late years that actresses have at last succeeded in 
living down the assumption that actress and prostitute are 
synonymous terms, and made good their position in respect- 
able society. This makes the survival of the old ostracism in 
the Act of 1843 intolerably galling; and though it explains 
the apparently unaccountable absurdity of choosing as Cen- 
sor of dramatic literature an official whose functions and 
qualifications have nothing whatever to do with literature, 
it also explains why the present arrangement is not only 
criticized as an institution, but resented as an insult. 

There is another reason, quite unconnected with the sus- 
ceptibilities of authors, which makes it undesirable that a 
member of the King's Household should be responsible for 
the character and tendency of plays. The drama, dealing 
with all departments of human life, is necessarily political. 
Recent events have shewn what indeed needed no demon- 
stration that it is impossible to prevent inferences being 
made, both at home and abroad, from the action of the Lord 
Chamberlain. The most talked-about play of the present 
year (1909), An Englishman's Home, has for its main 
interest an invasion of England by a fictitious power which 
is understood, as it is meant to be understood, to represent 



Germany. The lesson taught by the play is the danger of 
invasion and the need for every English citizen to be a 
soldier. The Lord Chamberlain licensed this play, but re- 
fused to license a parody of it. Shortly afterwards he refused 
to license another play in which the fear of a German inva- 
sion was ridiculed. The German press drew the inevitable 
inference that the Lord Chamberlain was an anti-German 
alarmist, and that his opinions were a reflection of those 
prevailing in St. James's Palace. Immediately after this, the 
Lord Chamberlain licensed the play. Whether the inference, 
as far as the Lord Chamberlain was concerned, was justified 
is of no consequence. What is important is that it was sure to 
be made, justly or unjustly, and extended from the Lord 
Chamberlain to the Throne. 

There is another objection to the Lord Chamberlain's 
censorship which affects the author's choice of subject. 
Formerly very little heed was given in England to the sus- 
ceptibilities of foreign courts. For instance, the notion that 
the Mikado of Japan should be as sacred to the English play- 
wright as he is to the Japanese Lord Chamberlain would 
have seemed grotesque a generation ago. Now that the 
maintenance of entente cordiale between nations is one of the 
most prominent and most useful functions of the crown, the 
freedom of authors to deal with political subjects, even his- 
torically, is seriously threatened by the way in which the 
censorship makes the King responsible for the contents of 
every play. One author the writer of these lines, in fact 
has long desired to dramatize the life of Mahomet. But the 
possibility of a protest from the Turkish Ambassador or 
the fear of it causing the Lord Chamberlain to refuse to 
license such a play has prevented the play from being written. 
Now, if the censorship were abolished, nobody but the 
author could be held responsible for the play. The Turkish 
Ambassador does not now protest against the publication of 
Carlyle's essay on the prophet, or of the English translations 
of the Koran in the prefaces to which Mahomet is criticized 


as an impostor, or of the older books in which he is reviled as 
Mahound and classed with the devil himself. But if these 
publications had to be licensed by the Lord Chamberlain it 
would be impossible for the King to allow the licence to be 
issued, as he would thereby be made responsible for the 
opinions expressed. This restriction of the historical drama 
is an unmixed evil. Great religious leaders are more interest- 
ing and more important subjects for the dramatist than great 
conquerors. It is a misfortune that public opinion would not 
tolerate a dramatization of Mahomet in Constantinople. But 
to prohibit it here, where public opinion would tolerate it, is 
an absurdity which, if applied in all directions, would make 
it impossible for the Queen to receive a Turkish ambassador 
without veiling herself, or the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's 
to display a cross on the summit of their Cathedral in a city 
occupied largely and influentially by Jews. Court etiquet is 
no doubt an excellent thing for court ceremonies; but to 
attempt to impose it on the drama is about as sensible as an 
attempt to make everybody in London wear court dress. 

In the above cases the general question of censorship is 
separable from the question of the present form of it. Every- 
one who condemns the principle of censorship must also 
condemn the Lord Chamberlain's control of the drama; but 
those who approve of the principle do not necessarily ap- 
prove of the Lord Chamberlain being the Censor ex qfficio. 
They may, however, be entirely opposed to popular liber- 
ties, and may conclude from what has been said, not that 
the stage should be made as free as the church, press, or plat- 
form, but that these institutions should be censored as 
strictly as the stage. It will seem obvious to them that no- 
thing is needed to remove all objections to a censorship ex- 
cept the placing of its powers in better hands. 

Now though the transfer of the censorship to, say, the 
Lord Chancellor, or the Primate, or a Cabinet Minister, 
would be much less humiliating to the persons immediately 
concerned, the inherent vices of the institution would not be 



appreciably less disastrous. They would even be aggravated, 
for reasons which do not appear on the surface, and therefore 
need to be followed with some attention. 

It is often said that the public is the real censor. That this 
is to some extent true is proved by the fact that plays which 
are licensed and produced in London have to be expurgated 
for the provinces. This does not mean that the provinces are 
more strait-laced, but simply that in many provincial towns 
there is only one theatre for all classes and all tastes, whereas 
in London there are separate theatres for separate sections of 
playgoers: so that, for example, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree 
can conduct His Majesty's Theatre without the slightest re- 
gard to the tastes of the frequenters of the Gaiety Theatre; 
and Mr. George Edwardes can conduct the Gaiety Theatre 
without catering in any way for lovers of Shakespear. Thus 
the farcical comedy which has scandalized the critics in Lon- 
don by the libertinage of its jests is played to the respectable 
dress circle of Northampton with these same jests slurred 
over so as to be imperceptible by even the most prurient 
spectator. The public, in short, takes care that nobody shall 
outrage it. 

But the public also takes care that nobody shall starve it, 
or regulate its dramatic diet as a schoolmistress regulates the 
reading of her pupils. Even when it wishes to be debauched, 
no censor can or at least no censor does stand out against 
it. If a play is irresistibly amusing, it gets licensed no matter 
what its moral aspect may be. A brilliant instance is the 
Divorfons of the late Victorien Sardou, which may not have 
been the naughtiest play of the ipth century, but was cer- 
tainly the very naughtiest that any English manager in his 
senses would have ventured to produce. Nevertheless, being 
a very amusing play, it passed the licenser with the excep- 
tion of a reference to impotence as a ground for divorce 
which no English actress would have ventured on in any 
case. Within the last few months a very amusing comedy 
with a strongly polygamous moral was found irresistible by 
the Lord Chamberlain. Plenty of fun and a happy ending 


will get anything licensed, because the public will have it so, 
and the Examiner of Plays, as the holder of the office testi- 
fied before the Commission of 1892 (Report, page 330), 
feels with the public, and knows that his office could not sur- 
vive a widespread unpopularity. In short, the support of the 
mob that is, of the unreasoning, unorganized, unin- 
structed mass of popular sentiment is indispensable to the 
censorship as it exists today in England. This is the explana- 
tion of the toleration by the Lord Chamberlain of coarse and 
vicious plays. It is not long since a judge before whom a 
licensed play came in the course of a lawsuit expressed his 
scandalized astonishment at the licensing of such a work. 
Eminent churchmen have made similar protests. In some 
plays the simulation of criminal assaults on the stage has 
been carried to a point at which a step further would have in- 
volved the interference of the police. Provided the treat- 
ment of the theme is gaily or hypocritically popular, and the 
ending happy, the indulgence of the Lord Chamberlain can 
be counted on. On the other hand, anything unpleasing and 
unpopular is rigorously censored. Adultery and prostitu- 
tion are tolerated and even encouraged to such an extent 
that plays which do not deal with them are commonly said 
not to be plays at all. But if any of the unpleasing conse- 
quences of adultery and prostitution for instance, an un- 
successful illegal operation (successful ones are tolerated) or 
venereal disease are mentioned, the play is prohibited. 
This principle of shielding the playgoer from unpleasant re- 
flections is carried so far that when a play was submitted for 
licence in which the relations of a prostitute with all the male 
characters in the piece was described as "immoral," the Ex- 
aminer of Plays objected to that passage, though he made no 
objection to the relations themselves- The Lord Chamber- 
lain dare not, in short, attempt to exclude from the stage the 
tragedies of murder and lust, or the farces of mendacity, 
adultery, and dissolute gaiety in which vulgar people de- 
light. But when these same vulgar people are threatened 
with an unpopular play in which dissoluteness is shewn to be 



no laughing matter, it is prohibited at once amid the vulgar 
applause, the net result being that vice is made delightful 
and virtue banned by the very institution which is supported 
on the understanding that it produces exactly the opposite 


Now comes the question, Why is our censorship, armed 
as it is with apparently autocratic powers, so scandalously 
timid in the face of the mob? Why is it not as autocratic in 
dealing with playwrights below the average as with those 
above it ? The answer is that its position is really a very weak 
one. It has no direct coercive forces, no funds to institute 
prosecutions and recover the legal penalties of defying it, no 
powers of arrest or imprisonment, in short, none of the 
guarantees of autocracy. What it can do is to refuse to renew 
the licence of a theatre at which its orders are disobeyed. 
When it happens that a theatre is about to be demolished, as 
was the case recently with the Imperial Theatre after it had 
passed into the hands of the Wesleyan Methodists, un- 
licensed plays can be performed, technically in private, but 
really in full publicity, without risk. The prohibited plays of 
Brieux and Ibsen have been performed in London in this 
way with complete impunity. But the impunity is not con- 
fined to condemned theatres. Not long ago a West End 
manager allowed a prohibited play to be performed at his 
theatre, taking his chance of losing his licence in conse- 
quence. The event proved that the manager was justified in 
regarding the risk as negligible; for the Lord Chamber- 
lain's remedy the closing of a popular and well-conducted 
theatre was far too extreme to be practicable. Unless the 
play had so outraged public opinion as to make the manager 
odious and provoke a clamor for his exemplary punishment, 
the Lord Chamberlain could only have had his revenge at 
the risk of having his powers abolished as unsupportably 

The Lord Chamberlain then has his powers so adjusted 


that he is tyrannical just where it is important that he should 
be tolerant, and tolerant just where he could screw up the 
standard a little by being tyrannical. His plea that there are 
unmentionable depths to which managers and authors 
would descend if he did not prevent them is disproved by 
the plain fact that his indulgence goes as far as the police, 
and sometimes further than the public, will let it. If our 
judges had so little power there would be no law in England. 
If our churches had so much, there would be no theatre, no 
literature, no science, no art, possibly no England. The 
institution is at once absurdly despotic and abjectly weak. 

Clearly a censorship of judges, bishops, or statesmen 
would not be in this abject condition. It would no doubt 
make short work of the coarse and vicious pieces which now 
enjoy the protection of the Lord Chamberlain, or at least of 
those of them in which the vulgarity and vice are discover- 
able by merely reading the prompt copy. But it would cer- 
tainly disappoint the main hope of its advocates: the hope 
that it would protect and foster the higher drama. It would 
do nothing of the sort. On the contrary, it would inevitably 
suppress it more completely than the Lord Chamberlain 
does, because it would understand it better. The one play of 
Ibsen's which is prohibited on the English stage, Ghosts, is 
far less subversive than A Doll's House. But the Lord Cham- 
berlain does not meddle with such far-reaching matters as 
the tendency of a play. He refuses to license Ghosts exactly 
as he would refuse to license Hamlet if it were submitted to 
him as a new play. He would license even Hamlet if certain 
alterations were made in it. He would disallow the incestu- 
ous relationship between the King and Queen. He would 
probably insist on the susbtitution of some fictitious country 
for Denmark in deference to the near relations of our reign- 
ing house with that realm. He would certainty make it an 
absolute condition that the closet scene, in which a son, in 
an agony of shame and revulsion, reproaches his mother for 



her relations with his uncle, should be struck out as unbear- 
ably horrifying and improper. But compliance with these 
conditions would satisfy him. He would raise no speculative 
objections to the tendency of the play. 

This indifference to the larger issues of a theatrical per- 
formance could not be safely predicated of an enlightened 
censorship. Such a censorship might be more liberal in its 
toleration of matters which are only objected to on the 
ground that they are not usually discussed in general social 
conversation or in the presence of children; but it would 
presumably have a far deeper insight to and concern for the 
real ethical tendency of the play. For instance, had it been in 
existence during the last quarter of a century, it would have 
perceived that those plays of Ibsen's which have been li- 
censed without question are fundamentally immoral to an 
altogether extraordinary degree. Every one of them is a 
deliberate act of war on society as at present constituted. 
Religion, marriage, ordinary respectability, are subjected to 
a destructive exposure and criticism which seems to mere 
moralists that is, to persons of no more than average depth 
of mind to be diabolical. It is no exaggeration to say that 
Ibsen gained his overwhelming reputation by undertaking 
a task of no less magnitude than changing the mind of 
Europe with the view of changing its morals. Now you can 
not license work of that sort without making yourself re- 
sponsible for it. The Lord Chamberlain accepted the re- 
sponsibility because he did not understand it or concern 
himself about it. But what really enlightened and conscien- 
tious official dare take such a responsibility? The strength of 
character and range of vision which made Ibsen capable of 
it are not to be expected from any official, however eminent. 
It is true that an enlightened censor might, whilst shrinking 
even with horror from Ibsen's views, perceive that any 
nation which suppressed Ibsen would presently find itself 
falling behind the nations which tolerated him just as Spain 
fell behind England; but the proper action to take on such a 
conviction is the abdication of censorship, not the practice 



of it. As long as a censor is a censor, he cannot endorse by his 
licence opinions which seem to him dangerously heretical. 

We may, therefore, conclude that the more enlightened 
a censorship is, the worse it would serve us. The Lord 
Chamberlain, an obviously unenlightened Censor, prohibits 
Ghosts and licenses all the rest of Ibsen's plays. An en- 
lightened censorship would possibly license Ghosts; but it 
would certainly suppress many of the other plays. It would 
suppress subversiveness as well as what is called bad taste. 
The Lord Chamberlain prohibits one play by Sophocles 
because, like Hamlet, it mentions the subject of incest; but 
an enlightened censorship might suppress all the plays of 
Euripides because Euripides, like Ibsen, was a revolution- 
ary Freethinker. Under the Lord Chamberlain, we can 
smuggle a good deal of immoral drama and almost as much 
coarsely vulgar and furtively lascivious drama as we like. 
Under a college of cardinals, or bishops, or judges, or any 
other conceivable form of experts in morals, philosophy, 
religion, or politics, we should get little except stagnant 


There is, besides, a crushing material difficulty in the 
way of an enlightened censorship. It is not too much to say 
that the work involved would drive a man of any intellectual 
rank mad. Consider, for example, the Christmas panto- 
mimes. Imagine a judge of the High Court, or an arch- 
bishop, or a Cabinet Minister, or an eminent man of letters, 
earning his living by reading through the mass of trivial 
doggerel represented by all the pantomimes which are put 
into rehearsal simultaneously at the end of every year. The 
proposal to put such mind-destroying drudgery upon an 
official of the class implied by the demand for an enlightened 
censorship falls through the moment we realize what it 
implies in practice. 

Another material difficulty is that no play can be judged 
by merely reading the dialogue. To be fully effective a cen- 


sor should witness the performance. The mise-en-scene of a 
play is as much a part of it as the words spoken on the stage. 
No censor could possibly object to such a speech as "Might 
I speak to you for a moment, miss?" yet that apparently 
innocent phrase has often been made offensively improper 
on the stage by popular low comedians, with the effect of 
changing the whole character and meaning of the play as 
understood by the official Examiner. In one of the plays of 
the present season, the dialogue was that of a crude melo- 
drama dealing in the most conventionally correct manner 
with the fortunes of a good-hearted and virtuous girl. Its 
morality was that of the Sunday school. But the principal 
actress, between two speeches which contained no reference 
to her action, changed her underclothing on the stage! It is 
true that in this case the actress was so much better than her 
part that she succeeded in turning what was meant as an 
impropriety into an inoffensive stroke of realism; yet it is 
none the less clear that stage business of this character, on 
which there can be no check except the actual presence of a 
censor in the theatre, might convert any dialogue, however 
innocent, into just the sort of entertainment against which 
the Censor is supposed to protect the public. 

It was this practical impossibility that prevented the 
London County Council from attempting to apply a censor- 
ship of the Lord Chamberlain's pattern to the London 
music halls. A proposal to examine all entertainments before 
permitting their performance was actually made; and it was 
abandoned, not in the least as contrary to the liberty of the 
stage, but because the executive problem of how to do it at 
once reduced the proposal to absurdity. Even if the Council 
devoted all its time to witnessing rehearsals of variety per- 
formances, and putting each item to the vote, possibly after 
a prolonged discussion followed by a division, the work 
would still fall into arrear. No committee could be induced 
to undertake such a task. The attachment of an inspector 
of morals to each music hall would have meant an appre- 
ciable addition to the ratepayers' burden. In the face of such 


difficulties the proposal melted away. Had it been pushed 
through, and the inspectors appointed, each of them would 
have become a censor, and the whole body of inspectors 
would have become a. police des m&urs. Those who know the 
history of such police forces on the Continent will under- 
stand how impossible it would be to procure inspectors 
whose characters would stand the strain of their oppor- 
tunities of corruption, both pecuniary and personal, at such 
salaries as a local authority could be persuaded to offer. 

It has been suggested that the present censorship should 
be supplemented by a board of experts, who should deal, 
not with the whole mass of plays sent up for licence, but only 
those which the Examiner of Plays refuses to pass. As the 
number of plays which the Examiner refuses to pass is never 
great enough to occupy a Board in permanent session with 
regular salaries, and as casual employment is not compatible 
with public responsibility, this proposal would work out in 
practice as an addition to the duties of some existing func- 
tionary. A Secretary of State would be objectionable as likely 
to be biased politically. An ecclesiastical referee might be 
biased against the theatre altogether. A judge in chambers 
would be the proper authority. This plan would combine 
the inevitable intolerance of an enlightened censorship with 
the popular laxity of the Lord Chamberlain. The judge 
would suppress the pioneers, whilst the Examiner of Plays 
issued two guinea certificates for the vulgar and vicious 
plays. For this reason the plan would no doubt be popular; 
but it would be very much as a relaxation of the administra- 
tion of the Public Health Acts accompanied by the cheapen- 
ing of gin would be popular. 

On the occasion of a recent deputation of playwrights to 
the Prime Minister it was suggested that if a censorship be 
inevitable, provision should be made for an appeal from the 
Lord Chamberlain in cases of refusal of licence. The authors 
of this suggestion propose that the Lord Chamberlain shall 
choose one umpire and the author another. The two um- 



pires shall then elect a referee, whose decision shall be final. 
This proposal is not likely to be entertained by constitu- 
tional lawyers. It is a naive offer to accept the method of 
arbitration in what is essentially a matter, not between one 
private individual or body and another, but between a public 
offender and the State. It will presumably be ruled out as a 
proposal to refer a case of manslaughter to arbitration would 
be ruled out. But even if it were constitutionally sound, it 
bears all the marks of that practical inexperience which leads 
men to believe that arbitration either costs nothing or is at 
least cheaper than law. Who is to pay for the time of the 
three arbitrators, presumably men of high professional 
standing? The author may not be able: the manager may 
not be willing: neither of them should be called upon to pay 
for a public service otherwise than by their contributions to 
the revenue. Clearly the State should pay. But even so, the 
difficulties are only beginning. A licence is seldom refused 
except on grounds which are controversial. The two arbi- 
trators selected by the opposed parties to the controversy 
are to agree to leave the decision to a third party unani- 
mously chosen by themselves. That is very far from being a 
simple solution. An attempt to shorten and simplify the 
passing of the Finance Bill by referring it to an arbitrator 
chosen unanimously by Mr Asquith and Mr Balfour might 
not improbably cost more and last longer than a civil war. 
And why should the chosen referee if he ever succeeded 
in getting chosen be assumed to be a safer authority than 
the Examiner of Plays? He would certainly be a less re- 
sponsible one: in fact, being (however eminent) a casual 
person called in to settle a single case, he would be virtually 
irresponsible. Worse still, he would take all responsibility 
away from the Lord Chamberlain, who is at least an official 
of the King's Household and a nominee of the Government. 
The Lord Chamberlain, with all his shortcomings, thinks 
twice before he refuses a licence, knowing that his refusal is 
final and may promptly be made public. But if he could 
transfer his responsibility to an arbitrator, he would natur- 





IT must not be concluded that the uncompromising abo- 
lition of all censorship involves the abandonment of all 
control and regulation of theatres. Factories are regu- 
lated in the public interest; but there is no censorship of 
factories. For example, many persons are sincerely con- 
vinced that cotton clothing is unhealthy; that alcoholic 
drinks are demoralizing; and that playing-cards are the 
devil's picture-books. But though the factories in which 
cotton, whiskey, and cards are manufactured are stringently 
regulated under the factory code and the Public Health and 
Building Acts, the inspectors appointed to carry out these 
Acts never go to a manufacturer and inform him that unless 
he manufactures woollens instead of cottons, ginger-beer 
instead of whiskey, Bibles instead of playing-cards, he will 
be forbidden to place his products on the market. In the 
case of premises licensed for the sale of spirits the authorities 
go a step further. A public-house differs from a factory in 
the essential particular that whereas disorder in a factory is 
promptly and voluntarily suppressed, because every mo- 
ment of its duration involves a measurable pecuniary loss to 
the proprietor, disorder in a public-house may be a source of 
profit to the proprietor by its attraction for disorderly cus- 
tomers. Consequently a publican is compelled to obtain a 
licence to pursue his trade; and this licence lasts only a year, 
and need not be renewed if his house has been conducted in 
a disorderly manner in the meantime. 

The theatre presents the same problem as the public- 
house in respect to disorder. To begin with, a theatre is 
actually a place licensed for the sale of spirits. The bars at a 
London theatre can be let without difficulty for 30 a week 
and upwards- And though it is clear that nobody will pay 



from a shilling to half a guinea for access to a theatre bar 
when he can obtain access to an ordinary public-house for 
nothing, there is no law to prevent the theatre proprietor 
from issuing free passes broadcast and recouping himself by 
the profit on the sale of drink. Besides, there may be some 
other attraction than the sale of drink. When this attraction 
is that of the play no objection need be made. But it happens 
that the auditorium of a theatre, with its brilliant lighting 
and luxurious decorations, makes a very effective shelter and 
background for the display of fine dresses and pretty faces. 
Consequently theatres have been used for centuries in Eng- 
land as markets by prostitutes. From the Restoration to the 
days of Macready all theatres were made use of in this way 
as a matter of course; and to this, far more than to any pre- 
judice against dramatic art, we owe the Puritan formula that 
the theatre door is the gate of hell. Macready had a hard 
struggle to drive the prostitutes from his theatre; and since 
his time the London theatres controlled by the Lord Cham- 
berlain have become respectable and even socially preten- 
tious. But some of the variety theatres still derive a revenue 
by selling admissions to women who do not look at the per- 
formance, and men who go to purchase or admire the 
women. And in the provinces this state of things is by no 
means confined to the variety theatres. The real attraction is 
sometimes not the performance at all. The theatre is not 
really a theatre: it is a drink shop and a prostitution market; 
and the last shred of its disguise is stripped by the virtually 
indiscriminate issue of free tickets to the men. Access to the 
stage is also easily obtained; and the plays preferred by the 
management are those in which the stage is filled with young 
women who are not in any serious technical sense of the 
word actresses at all. Considering that all this is now possible 
at any theatre, and actually occurs at some theatres, the fact 
that our best theatres are as respectable as they are is much 
to their credit; but it is still an intolerable evil that respect- 
able managers should have to fight against the free tickets 
and disorderly housekeeping of unscrupulous competitors. 

The dramatic author is equally injured. He finds that unless 
he writes plays which make suitable side-shows for drinking- 
bars and brothels, he may be excluded from towns where 
there is not room for two theatres, and where the one exist- 
ing theatre is exploiting drunkenness and prostitution in- 
stead of carrying on a legitimate dramatic business. Indeed 
everybody connected with the theatrical profession suffers 
in reputation from the detestable tradition of such places, 
against which the censorship has proved quite useless. 

Here we have a strong case for applying either the licens- 
ing system or whatever better means may be devized for 
securing the orderly conduct of houses of public entertain- 
ment, dramatic or other. Liberty must, no doubt, be re- 
spected in so far that no manager should have the right to 
refuse admission to decently dressed, sober, and well-con- 
ducted persons, whether they are prostitutes, soldiers in 
uniform, gentlemen not in evening dress, Indians, or what 
not; but when disorder is stopped, disorderly persons will 
either cease to come or else reform their manners. It is, how- 
ever, quite arguable that the indiscriminate issue of free ad- 
missions, though an apparently innocent and good-natured, 
and certainly a highly popular proceeding, should expose 
the proprietor of the theatre to the risk of a refusal to renew 
his licence, 


All this points to the transfer of the control of theatres 
from the Lord Chamberlain to the municipality. And this 
step is opposed by the long-run managers, partly because 
they take it for granted that municipal control must involve 
municipal censorship of plays, so that plays might be licensed 
in one town and prohibited in the next, and partly because, 
as they have no desire to produce plays which are in advance 
of public opinion, and as the Lord Chamberlain in every 
other respect gives more scandal by his laxity than trouble 
by his severity, they find in the present system a cheap and 
easy means of procuring a certificate which relieves them of 



all social responsibility, and provides them with so strong a 
weapon of defence in case of a prosecution that it acts in 
practice as a bar to any such proceedings. Above all, they 
know that the Examiner of Plays is free from the pressure of 
that large body of English public opinion already alluded to, 
which regards the theatre as the Prohibitionist Teetotaller 
regards the public-house: that is, as an abomination to be 
stamped out unconditionally. The managers rightly dread 
this pressure more than anything else; and they believe that 
it is so strong in local governments as to be a characteristic 
bias of municipal authority. In this they are no doubt mis- 
taken. There is not a municipal authority of any importance 
in the country in which a proposal to stamp out the theatre, 
or even to treat it illiberally, would have a chance of adop- 
tion. Municipal control of the variety theatres (formerly 
called music halls) has been very far from illiberal, except in 
the one particular in which the Lord Chamberlain is equally 
illiberal. That particular is the assumption that a draped 
figure is decent and an undraped one indecent. It is useless 
to point to actual experience, which proves abundantly that 
naked or apparently naked figures, whether exhibited as 
living pictures, animated statuary, or in a dance, are at their 
best not only innocent, but refining in their effect, whereas 
those actresses and skirt dancers who have brought the 
peculiar aphrodisiac effect which is objected to to the highest 
pitch of efficiency wear twice as many petticoats as an ordin- 
ary lady does, and seldom exhibit more than their ankles. 
Unfortunately, municipal councillors persist in confusing 
decency with drapery; and both in London and the pro- 
vinces certain positively edifying performances have been 
forbidden or withdrawn under pressure, and replaced by 
coarse and vicious ones. There is not the slightest reason to 
suppose that the Lord Chamberlain would have been any 
more tolerant; but this does not alter the fact that the muni- 
cipal licensing authorities have actually used their powers to 
set up a censorship which is open to all the objections to 
censorship in general, and which, in addition, sets up the 


objection from which central control is free: namely, the im- 
possibility of planning theatrical tours without the serious 
commercial risk of having the performance forbidden in 
some of the towns booked. How can this be prevented? 


The problem is not a difficult one. The municipality can 
be limited just as the monarchy is limited. The Act trans- 
ferring theatres to local control can be a charter of the liber- 
ties of the stage as well as an Act to reform administration. 
The power to refuse to grant or renew a licence to a theatre 
need not be an arbitrary one. The municipality may be re- 
quired to state the ground of refusal; and certain grounds 
can be expressly declared as unlawful; so that it shall be 
possible for the manager to resort to the courts for a man-* 
damus to compel the authority to grant a licence. It can be 
declared unlawful for a licensing authority to demand from 
the manager any disclosure of the nature of any entertain- 
ment he proposes to give, or to prevent its performance, or 
to refuse to renew his licence on the ground that the tend- 
ency of his entertainments is contrary to religion and morals, 
or that the theatre is an undesirable institution, or that 
there are already as many theatres as are needed, or that the 
theatre draws people away from the churches, chapels, mis- 
sion halls, and the like in its neighborhood- The assumption 
should be that every citizen has a right to open and conduct 
a theatre, and therefore has a right to a licence unless he has 
forfeited that right by allowing his theatre to become a dis- 
orderly house, or failing to provide a building which com- 
plies with the regulations concerning sanitation and egress 
in case of fire, or being convicted of an offence against 
public decency. Also, the licensing powers of the authority 
should not be delegated to any official or committee; and 
the manager or lessee of the theatre should have a right to 
appear in person or by counsel to plead against any motion 
to refuse to grant or renew his licence. With these safeguards 
the licensing power could not be stretched to censorship. 



The manager would enjoy liberty of conscience as far as the 
local authority is concerned; but on the least attempt on his 
part to keep a disorderly house under cover of opening a 
theatre he would risk his licence. 

But the managers will not and should not be satisfied 
with these limits to the municipal power. If they are de- 
prived of the protection of the Lord Chamberlain's licence, 
and at the same time efficiently protected against every at- 
tempt at censorship by the licensing authority, the enemies 
of the theatre will resort to the ordinary law, and try to get 
from the prejudices of a jury what they are debarred from 
getting from the prejudices of a County Council or City 
Corporation. Moral Reform Societies, "Purity" Societies, 
Vigilance Societies, exist in England and America for the 
purpose of enforcing the existing laws against obscenity, 
blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, the debauchery of children, 
prostitution, and so forth. The paid officials of these societies, 
in their anxiety to produce plenty of evidence of their activity 
in the annual reports which go out to the subscribers, do not 
always discriminate between an obscene postcard and an 
artistic one, or to put it more exactly, between a naked 
figure and an indecent one. They often combine a narrow 
but terribly sincere sectarian bigotry with a complete ignor- 
ance of art and history. Even when they have some culture, 
their livelihood is at the mercy of subscribers and committee 
men who have none. If these officials had any power of dis- 
tinguishing between art and blackguardism, between mor- 
ality and virtue, between immorality and vice, between con- 
scientious heresy and mere baseness of mind and foulness of 
mouth, they might be trusted by theatrical managers not to 
abuse the powers of the common informer. As it is, it has 
been found necessary, in order to enable good music to be 
performed on Sunday, to take away these powers in that 
particular, and vest them solely in the Attorney-General. 
This disqualification of the common informer should be ex- 
tended to the initiation of all proceedings of a censorial char- 
acter against theatres. Few people are aware of the monstrous 


laws against blasphemy which still disgrace our statute book. 
If any serious attempt were made to carry them out, prison 
accommodation would have to be provided for almost every 
educated person in the country, beginning with the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. Until some government with courage 
and character enough to repeal them comes into power, it is 
not too much to ask that such infamous powers of oppres- 
sion should be kept in responsible hands and not left at the 
disposal of every bigot ignorant enough to be unaware of 
the social dangers of persecution. Besides, the common in- 
former is not always a sincere bigot who believes he is per- 
forming an action of signal merit in silencing and ruining a 
heretic. He is unfortunately just as often a blackmailer, who 
has studied his powers as a common informer in order that 
he may extort money for refraining from exercising them. If 
the manager is to be responsible he should be made respons- 
ible to a responsible functionary. To be responsible to every 
fanatical ignoramus who chooses to prosecute him for ex- 
hibiting a cast of the Hermes of Praxiteles in his vestibule, 
or giving a performance of Measure for Measure, is mere 
slavery. It is made bearable at present by the protection 
of the Lord Chamberlain's certificate. But when that is no 
longer available, the common informer must be disarmed if 
the manager is to enjoy security. 



A | ^\HE general case against censorship as a principle, 
I and the particular case against the existing English 
JL censorship and against its replacement by a more 
enlightened one, is now complete. The following is a recapit- 
ulation of the propositions and conclusions contended for. 

1. The question of censorship or no censorship is a ques- 
tion of high political principle and not of petty policy. 

2. The toleration of heresy and shocks to morality on the 
stage, and even their protection against the prejudices and 
superstitions which necessarily enter largely into morality 
and public opinion, are essential to the welfare of the nation. 

3. The existing censorship of the Lord Chamberlain 
does not only intentionally suppress heresy and challenges 
to morality in their serious and avowed forms, but uninten- 
tionally gives the special protection of its official license to 
the most extreme impropriety that the lowest section of 
London playgoers will tolerate in theatres especially de- 
voted to their entertainment, licensing everything that is 
popular and forbidding any attempt to change public opinion 
or morals. 

4. The Lord Chamberlain's censorship is open to the 
special objection that its application to political plays is 
taken to indicate the attitude of the Crown on questions of 
domestic and foreign policy, and that it imposes the limits 
of etiquet on the historical drama. 

5. A censorship of a more enlightened and independent 
kind, exercised by the most eminent available authorities, 
would prove in practice more disastrous than the censorship 
of the Lord Chamberlain, because the more eminent its 
members were the less possible would it be for them to 
accept the responsibility for heresy or immorality by licens- 
ing them, and because the many heretical and immoral plays 
which now pass the Lord Chamberlain because he does not 
understand them, would be understood and suppressed by a 
more highly enlightened censorship. 

6. A reconstructed and enlightened censorship would 


be armed with summary and effective powers which would 
stop the evasions by which heretical and immoral plays are 
now performed in spite of the Lord Chamberlain; and such 
powers would constitute a tyranny which would ruin the 
theatre spiritually by driving all independent thinkers from 
the drama into the uncensored forms of art. 

7. The work of critically examining all stage plays in 
their written form, and of witnessing their performance in 
order to see that the sense is not altered by the stage busi- 
ness, would, even if it were divided among so many officials 
as to be physically possible, be mentally impossible to per- 
sons of taste and enlightenment. 

8. Regulation of theatres is an entirely different matter 
from censorship, inasmuch as a theatre, being not only a 
stage, but a place licensed for the sale of spirits, and a public 
resort capable of being put to disorderly use, and needing 
special provision for the safety of audiences in cases of fire, 
etc., cannot be abandoned wholly to private control, and 
may therefore reasonably be made subject to an annual 
licence like those now required before allowing premises to 
be used publicly for music and dancing. 

9. In order to prevent the powers of the licensing author- 
ity being abused so as to constitute a virtual censorship, any 
Act transferring the theatres to the control of a licensing 
authority should be made also a charter of the rights of 
dramatic authors and managers by the following provisions: 

A. The public prosecutor (the Attorney-General) alone 
should have the right to set the law in operation against the 
manager of a theatre or the author of a play in respect of the 
character of the play or entertainment. 

B. No disclosure of the particulars of a theatrical enter- 
tainment shall be required before performance. 

C. Licences shall not be withheld on the ground that the 
existence of theatres is dangerous to religion and morals, 
or on the ground that any entertainment given or contem- 
plated is heretical or immoral. 

D. The licensing area shall be no less than that of a 



County Council or City Corporation, which shall not dele- 
gate its licensing powers to any minor local authority or to 
any official or committee; it shall decide all questions affect- 
ing the existence of a theatrical licence by vote of the entire 
body; managers, lessees, and proprietors of theatres shall 
have the right to plead, in person or by counsel, against a 
proposal to withhold a licence; and the licence shall not be 
withheld except for stated reasons, the validity of which 
shall be subject to the judgment of the high courts. 

E. The annual licence, once granted, shall not be can- 
celled or suspended unless the manager has been convicted 
by public prosecution of an offence against the ordinary laws 
against disorderly housekeeping, indecency, blasphemy, 
etc., except in cases where some structural or sanitary defect 
in the building necessitates immediate action for the pro- 
tection of the public against physical injury. 

F. No licence shall be refused on the ground that the 
proximity of the theatre to a church, mission hall, school 
or other place of worship, edification, instruction, or enter- 
tainment (including another theatre) would draw the public 
away from such places into its own doors. 



ON the facts mentioned in the foregoing statement, 
and in my evidence before the Joint Select Com- 
mittee, no controversy arose except on one point. 
Mr George Alexander protested vigorously and indignantly 
against my admission that theatres, like public-houses, need 
special control on the ground that they can profit by dis- 
order, and are sometimes conducted with that end in view. 
Now, Mr Alexander is a famous actor-manager; and it is 
very difficult to persuade the public that the more famous an 
actor-manager is the less he is likely to know about any 
theatre except his own. When the Committee of 1892 re- 
ported, I was considered guilty of a perverse paradox when 
I said that the witness who knew least about the theatre was 
Henry Irving, Yet a moment's consideration would have 
shewn that the paradox was a platitude. For about quarter 
of a century Irving was confined night after night to his own 
theatre and his own dressing-room, never seeing a play even 
there because he was himself part of the play; producing the 
works of long-departed authors; and, to the extent to which 
his talent was extraordinary, necessarily making his theatre 
unlike any other theatre. When he went to the provinces or 
to America, the theatres to which he went were swept and 
garnished for him, and their staffs replaced as far as he 
came in contact with them by his own lieutenants. In the 
end, there was hardly a first-nighter in his gallery who did 
not know more about the London theatres and the progress 
of dramatic art than he; and as to the provinces, if any chief 
constable had told him the real history and character of many 
provincial theatres, he would have denounced that chief 
constable as an ignorant libeller of a noble profession. But 
the constable would have been right for all that. Now if this 
was true of Sir Henry Irving, who did not become a London 
manager until he had roughed it for years in the provinces, 
how much more true must it be of, say, Mr George Alex- 
ander, whose successful march through his profession has 


passed as far from the purlieus of our theatrical world as the 
king's naval career from the Isle of Dogs ? The moment we 
come to that necessary part of the censorship question which 
deals with the control of theatres from the point of view of 
those who know how much money can be made out of them 
by managers who seek to make the auditorium attractive 
rather than the stage, you find the managers divided into 
two sections. The first section consists of honorable and suc- 
cessful managers like Mr Alexander, who know nothing of 
such abuses, and deny, with perfect sincerity and indignant 
vehemence, that they exist except, perhaps, in certain notori- 
ous variety theatres. The other is the silent section which 
knows better, but is very well content to be publicly de- 
fended and privately amused by Mr Alexander's innocence. 
To accept a West End manager as an expert in theatres be- 
cause he is an actor is much as if we were to accept the organ- 
ist of St Paul's Cathedral as an expert on music halls because 
he is a musician. The real experts are all in the conspiracy to 
keep the police out of the theatre. And they are so successful 
that even the police do not know as much as they should. 

The police should have been examined by the Commit- 
tee, and the whole question of the extent to which theatres 
are disorderly houses in disguise sifted to the bottom. For it 
is on this point that we discover behind the phantoms of the 
corrupt dramatists who are restrained by the censorship 
from debauching the stage, the reality of the corrupt man- 
agers and theatre proprietors who actually do debauch it 
without let or hindrance from the censorship. The whole 
case for giving control over theatres to local authorities 
rests on this reality. 

The persistent notion that a theatre is an Alsatia where 
the king's writ does not run, and where any wickedness is 
possible in the absence of a special tribunal and a special 
police, was brought out by an innocent remark made by Sir 
William Gilbert, who, when giving evidence before the 
Committee, was asked by Colonel Lockwood whether a law 


sufficient to restrain impropriety in books would also re- 
strain impropriety in plays. Sir William replied: "I should 
say there is a very wide distinction between what is read 
and what is seen. In a novel one may read that 'Eliza stripped 
off her dressing-gown and stepped into her bath' without 
any harm; but I think if that were presented on the stage it 
would be shocking." All the stupid and inconsiderate people 
seized eagerly on this illustration as if it were a successful 
attempt to prove that without a censorship we should be 
unable to prevent actresses from appearing naked on the 
stage. As a matter of fact, if an actress could be persuaded 
to do such a thing (and it would be about as easy to per- 
suade a bishop's wife to appear in church in the same condi- 
tion) the police would simply arrest her on a charge of 
indecent exposure. The extent to which this obvious safe- 
guard was overlooked may be taken as a measure of the 
thoughtlessness and frivolity of the excuses made for the 
censorship. It should be added that the artistic representa- 
tion of a bath, with every suggestion of nakedness that the 
law as to decency allows, is one of the most familiar subjects 
of scenic art. From the Rhine maidens in Wagner's Trilogy, 
and the bathers in the second act of Les Huguenots, to the 
ballets of water nymphs in our Christmas pantomimes and 
at our variety theatres, the sound hygienic propaganda of 
the bath, and the charm of the undraped human figure, are 
exploited without offence on the stage to an extent never 
dreamt of by any novelist. 


Another hare was started by Professor Gilbert Murray 
and Mr Laurence Housman, who, in pure kindness to the 
managers, asked whether it would not be possible to estab- 
lish for their assistance a sort of King's Proctor to whom 
plays might be referred for an official legal opinion as to 
their compliance with the law before production. There are 
several objections to this proposal; and they may as well be 
stated in case the proposal should be revived. In the first 
place, no lawyer with the most elementary knowledge of the 



law of libel in its various applications to sedition, obscenity, 
and blasphemy, could answer for the consequences of pro- 
ducing any play whatsoever as to which the smallest ques- 
tion could arise in the mind of any sane person. I have been 
a critic and an author in active service for thirty years; and 
though nothing I have written has ever been prosecuted in 
England or made the subject of legal proceedings, yet I have 
never published in my life an article, a play, or a book, as to 
which, if I had taken legal advice, an expert could have 
assured me that I was proof against prosecution or against 
an action for damages by the persons criticized. No doubt a 
sensible solicitor might have advised me that the risk was no 
greater than all men have to take in dangerous trades; but 
such an opinion, though it may encourage a client, does not 
protect him. For example, if a publisher asks his solicitor 
whether he may venture on an edition of Sterne's Senti- 
mental Journey, or a manager whether he may produce King 
Lear without risk of prosecution, the solicitor will advise 
him to go ahead. But if the solicitor or counsel consulted by 
him were asked for a guarantee that neither of these works 
was a libel, he would have to reply that he could give no such 
guarantee; that, on the contrary, it was his duty to warn his 
client that both of them are obscene libels; that King Lear, 
containing as it does perhaps the most appalling blasphemy 
that despair ever uttered, is a blasphemous libel, and that it 
is doubtful whether it could not be construed as a seditious 
libel as well. As to Ibsen's Brand (the play which made him 
popular with the most earnestly religious people) no sane 
solicitor would advise his client even to chance it except in a 
broadly cultivated and tolerant (or indifferent) modern city. 
The lighter plays would be no better off. What lawyer could 
accept any responsibility for the production of Sardou's 
Divorgons or Clyde Fitch's The Woman in the Case? Put 
the proposed King's Proctor in operation tomorrow; and 
what will be the result? The managers will find that instead 
of insuring them as the Lord Chamberlain does, he will 
warn them that every play they submit to him is vulnerable 


to the law, and that they must produce it not only on the 
ordinary risk of acting on their own responsibility, but at 
the very grave additional risk of doing so in the teeth of an 
official warning. Under such circumstances, what manager 
would resort a second time to the Proctor; and how would 
the Proctor live without fees, unless indeed the Government 
gave him a salary for doing nothing? The institution would 
not last a year, except as a job for somebody. 


The proposal is still less plausible when it is considered 
that at present, without any new legislation at all, any man- 
ager who is doubtful about a play can obtain the advice of 
his solicitor, or Counsel's opinion, if he thinks it will be of 
any service to him. The verdict of the proposed King's 
Proctor would be nothing but Counsel's opinion without 
the liberty of choice of Counsel, possibly cheapened, but 
sure to be adverse; for an official cannot give practical advice 
as a friend and a man of the world; he must stick to the let- 
ter of the law and take no chances. And as far as the law is 
concerned, journalism, literature, and the drama exist only 
by custom or sufferance. 


This leads us to a very vital question. Is it not possible to 
amend the law so as to make it possible for a lawyer to advise 
his client that he may publish the works of Blake, Zola, and 
Swinburne, or produce the plays of Ibsen and Mr Granville 
Barker, or print ordinary criticism in his newspaper, with- 
out the possibility of finding himself in prison, or mulcted in 
damages and costs in consequence ? No doubt it is; but only 
by a declaration of constitutional right to blaspheme, rebel, 
and deal with tabooed subjects. Such a declaration is not just 
now within the scope of practical politics, although we are 
compelled to act to a great extent as if it was actually part of 
the constitution. All that can be done is to take my Advice 
and limit the necessary public control of the theatres in such 
a manner as to prevent its being abused as a censorship. We 
have ready to our hand the machinery of licensing as applied 



to public-houses. A licensed victualler can now be assured 
confidently by his lawyer that a magistrate cannot refuse to 
renew his licence on the ground that he (the magistrate) is a 
teetotaller and has seen too much of the evil of drink to 
sanction its sale. The magistrate must give a judicial reason 
for his refusal, meaning really a constitutional reason; and 
his teetotallism is not such a reason. In the same way you can 
protect a theatrical manager by ruling out certain reasons 
as unconstitutional, as suggested in my statement. Combine 
this with the abolition of the common informer's power to 
initiate proceedings; and you will have gone as far as seems 
possible at present. You will have local control of the theatres 
for police purposes and sanitary purposes without censor- 
ship; and I do not see what more is possible until we get a 
formal Magna Charta declaring all the categories of libel 
and the blasphemy laws contrary to public liberty, and re- 
pealing and defining accordingly. 

Yet we cannot mention Magna Charta without recalling 
how useless such documents are to a nation which has no 
more political comprehension nor political virtue than King 
John. When Henry VII. calmly proceeded to tear up Magna 
Charta by establishing the Star Chamber (a criminal court 
consisting of a committee of the Privy Council without a 
jury) nobody objected until, about a century and a half 
later, the Star Chamber began cutting off the ears of emi- 
nent Nonconformist divines and standing them in the pillory; 
and then the Nonconformists, and nobody else, abolished 
the Star Chamber. And if anyone doubts that we are quite 
ready to establish the Star Chamber again, let him read the 
Report of the Joint Select Committee, on which I now ven- 
ture to offer a few criticisms. 

The report of the Committee, which will be found in the 
bluebook, should be read with attention and respect as far 
as page x, up to which point it is an able and well-written 
statement of the case. From page x onward, when it goes on 
from diagnosing the disease to prescribing the treatment, it 


should be read with even greater attention but with no re- 
spect whatever, as the main object of the treatment is to 
conciliate the How Not To Do It majority. It contains, how- 
ever, one very notable proposal, the same being nothing more 
nor less than to revive the Star Chamber for the purpose of 
dealing with heretical or seditious plays and their authors, 
and indeed with all charges against theatrical entertainments 
except common police cases of indecency. The reason given 
is that for which the Star Chamber was created by Henry 
VII. : that is, the inadequacy of the ordinary law. "We con- 
sider," says the report, "that the law which prevents or 
punishes indecency, blasphemy and libel in printed publica- 
tions [it does not, by the way, except in the crudest police 
cases] would not be adequate for the control of the drama." 
Therefor a committee of the Privy Council is to be em- 
powered to suppress plays and punish managers and authors 
at its pleasure, on the motion of the Attorney-General, with- 
out a jury. The members of the Committee will, of course, 
be men of high standing and character : otherwise they would 
not be on the Privy Council. That is to say, they will have 
all the qualifications of Archbishop Laud. 

Now I have no guarantee that any member of the majority 
of the Joint Select Committee ever heard of the Star Cham- 
ber or of Archbishop Laud. One of them did not know that 
politics meant anything more than party electioneering. 
Nothing is more alarming than the ignorance of our public 
men of the commonplaces of our history, and their conse- 
quent readiness to repeat experiments which have in the past 
produced national catastrophes. At all events, whether they 
knew what they were doing or not, there can be no question 
as to what they did. They proposed virtually that the Act of 
the Long Parliament in 1641 shall be repealed, and the Star 
Chamber re-established, in order that playwrights and mana- 
gers may be punished for unspecified offences unknown to 
the law. When I say unspecified, I should say specified as 
follows (see page xi of the report) in the case of a play: 

(a) To be indecent. 



(b) To contain offensive personalities, 

(c) To represent on the stage in an invidious manner a 
living person, or any person recently dead. 

(d) To do violence to the sentiment of religious rever- 

(e) To be calculated to conduce to vice or crime. 

(f) To be calculated to impair friendly relations with 
any foreign power. 

QJ-) To be calculated to cause a breach of the peace. 

Now it is clear that there is no play yet written, or possible 
to be written, in this world, that might not be condemned 
under one or other of these heads. How any sane man, not 
being a professed enemy of public liberty, could put his hand 
to so monstrous a catalogue passes my understanding. Had 
a comparatively definite and innocent clause been added 
forbidding the affirmation or denial of the doctrine of Tran- 
substantiation, the country would have been up in arms at 
once. Lord Ribblesdale made an effort to reduce the seven 
categories to the old formula "not to be fitting for the pre- 
servation of good manners, decorum, or the public peace"; 
but this proposal was not carried; whilst on Lord Gorell's 
motion a final widening of the net was achieved by adding 
the phrase "to be calculated to"; so that even if a play does 
not produce any of the results feared, the author can still be 
punished on the ground that his play is "calculated" to pro- 
duce them. I have no hesitation in saying that a committee 
capable of such an outrageous display of thoughtlessness and 
historical ignorance as this paragraph of its report implies 
deserves to be haled before the tribunal it has itself proposed, 
and dealt with under a general clause levelled at conduct 
"calculated to" overthrow the liberties of England. 

Still, though I am certainly not willing to give Lord 
Gorell the chance of seeing me in the pillory with my ears 
cut off if I can help it, I daresay many authors would rather 
take their chance with a Star Chamber than with a jury, just 
as some soldiers would rather take their chance with a court- 


martial than at Quarter Sessions. For that matter, some of 
them would rather take their chance with the Lord Cham- 
berlain than with either. And though this is no reason for 
depriving the whole body of authors of the benefit of Magna 
Charta, still, if the right of the proprietor of a play to refuse 
the good offices of the Privy Council and to perform the play 
until his accusers had indicted him at law, and obtained the 
verdict of a jury against him, were sufficiently guarded, the 
proposed Committee might be set up and used for certain 
purposes. For instance, it might be made a condition of the 
intervention of the Attorney-General or the Director of Pub- 
lic Prosecutions that he should refer an accused play to the 
Committee, and obtain their sanction before taking action, 
offering the proprietor of the play, if the Committee thought 
fit, an opportunity of voluntarily accepting trial by the Com- 
mittee as an alternative to prosecution in the ordinary course 
of law. But the Committee should have no powers of pun- 
ishment beyond the power (formidable enough) of suspend- 
ing performances of the play. If it thought that additional 
punishment was called for, it could order a prosecution with- 
out allowing the proprietor or author of the play the alter- 
native of a trial by itself. The author of the play should be 
made a party to all proceedings of the Committee, and have 
the right to defend himself in person or by counsel. This 
would provide a check on the Attorney-General (who might 
be as bigoted as any of the municipal aldermen who are so 
much dreaded by the actor-managers) without enabling the 
Committee to abuse its powers for party, class, or sectarian 
ends beyond that irreducible minimum of abuse which a 
popular jury would endorse, for which minimum there is no 

But when everything is said for the Star Chamber that can 
be said, and every precaution taken to secure to those whom 
it pursues the alternative of trial by jury, the expedient still 
remains a very questionable one, to be endured for the sake 
of its protective rather than its repressive powers. It should 
the present quaint toleration of rioting in theatres. 



For example, if it is to be an offence to perform a play which 
the proposed new Committee shall condemn, it should also 
be made an offence to disturb a performance which the 
Committee has not condemned. "Brawling" at a theatre 
should be dealt with as severely as brawling in church if the 
censorship is to be taken out of the hands of the public. At 
present Jenny Geddes may throw her stool at the head of a 
playwright who preaches unpalatable doctrine to her, or 
rather, since her stool is a fixture, she may hiss and hoot and 
make it impossible to proceed with the performance, even 
although nobody has compelled her to come to the theatre or 
suspended her liberty to stay away, and although she has no 
claim on an unendowed theatre for her spiritual necessities, 
as she has on her parish church. If mob censorship cannot 
be trusted to keep naughty playwrights in order, still less 
can it be trusted to keep the pioneers of thought in counten- 
ance; and I submit that anyone hissing a play permitted by 
the new censorship should be guilty of contempt of court. 

But what is most to be dreaded in a Star Chamber is not 
its sternness but its sentimentality. There is no worse cen- 
sorship than one which considers only the feelings of the 
spectators, except perhaps one which considers the feelings 
of people who do not even witness the performance. Take 
the case of the Passion Play at Oberammergau. The offence 
given by a representation of the Crucifixion on the stage is 
not bounded by frontiers: further, it is an offence of which 
the voluntary spectators are guilty no less than the actors. 
If it is to be tolerated at all: if we are not to make war on the 
German Empire for permitting it, nor punish the English 
people who go to Bavaria to see it and thereby endow it with 
English money, we may as well tolerate it in London, where 
nobody need go to see it except those who are not offended 
by it. When Wagner's Parsifal becomes available for repre- 
sentation in London, many people will be sincerely horrified 
when the miracle of the Mass is simulated on the stage of 
Covent Garden, and the Holy Ghost descends in the form of 



a dove. But if the Committee of the Privy Council, or the 
Lord Chamberlain, or anyone else, were to attempt to keep 
Parsifal from us to spare the feelings of these people, it 
would not be long before even the most thoughtless cham- 
pions of the censorship would see that the principle of doing 
nothing that could shock anybody had reduced itself to ab- 
surdity. No quarter whatever should be given to the bigotry 
of people so unfit for social life as to insist not only that their 
own prejudices and superstitions should have the fullest 
toleration but that everybody else should be compelled to 
think and act as they do. Every service in St Paul's Cathedral 
is an outrage to the opinions of the congregation of the 
Roman Catholic Cathedral of Westminster. Every Liberal 
meeting is a defiance and a challenge to the most cherished 
opinions of the Unionists. A law to compel the Roman 
Catholics to attend service at St Paul's, or the Liberals to 
attend the meetings of the Primrose League would be re- 
sented as an insufferable tyranny. But a law to shut up both 
St Paul's and the Westminster Cathedral, and to put down 
political meetings and associations because of the offence 
given by them to many worthy and excellent people, would 
be a far worse tyranny, because it would kill the religious 
and political life of the country outright, whereas to compel 
people to attend the services and meetings of their opponents 
would greatly enlarge their minds, and would actually be a 
good thing if it were enforced all round. I should not object 
to a law to compel everybody to read two newspapers, each 
violently opposed to the other in politics; but to forbid us to 
read newspapers at all would be to maim us mentally and 
cashier our country in the ranks of civilization. I deny that 
anybody has the right to demand more from me, over and 
above lawful conduct in a general sense, than liberty to stay 
away from the theatre in which my plays are represented. If 
he is unfortunate enough to have a religion so petty that it 
can be insulted (any man is as welcome to insult my religion, 
if he can, as he is to insult the universe) I claim the right to 
insult it to my heart's content, if I choose, provided I do not 



compel him to come and hear me. If I think this country 
ought to make war on any other country, then, so long as 
war remains lawful, I claim full liberty to write and perform 
a play inciting the country to that war without interference 
from the ambassadors of the menaced country. I may "give 
pain to many worthy people, and pleasure to none," as the 
Censor's pet phrase puts it: I may even make Europe a 
cockpit and Asia a shambles: no matter: if preachers and 
politicians, statesmen and soldiers, may do these things if 
it is right that such things should be done, then I claim my 
share in the right to do them. If the proposed Committee is 
meant to prevent me from doing these things whilst men of 
other professions are permitted to do them, then I protest 
with all my might against the formation of such a Com- 
mittee. If it is to protect me, on the contrary, against the 
attacks that bigots and corrupt pornographers may make on 
me by appealing to the ignorance and prejudices of common 
jurors, then I welcome it; but is that really the object of its 
proposers ? And if it is, what guarantee have I that the new 
tribunal will not presently resolve into a mere committee to 
avoid unpleasantness and keep the stage "in good taste" ? It 
is no more possible for me to do my work honestly as a play- 
wright without giving pain than it is for a dentist. The 
nation's morals are like its teeth: the more decayed they are 
the more it hurts to touch them. Prevent dentists and drama- 
tists from giving pain, and not only will our morals become 
as carious as our teeth, but toothache and the plagues that 
follow neglected morality will presently cause more agony 
than all the dentists and dramatists at their worst have 
caused since the world began. 

Another doubt: would a Committee of the Privy Coun- 
cil really face the risks that must be taken by all communities 
as the price of our freedom to evolve? Would it not rather 
take the popular English view that freedom and virtue gen- 
erally are sweet and desirable only when they cost nothing? 
Nothing worth having is to be had without risk. A mother 


risks her child's life every time she lets it ramble through the 
countryside, or cross the street, or clamber over the rocks on 
the shore by itself. A father risks his son's morals when he 
gives him a latchkey. The members of the Joint Select Com- 
mittee risked my producing a revolver and shooting them 
when they admitted me to the room without having me 
handcuffed. And these risks are no unreal ones. Every day 
some child is maimed or drowned and some young man in- 
fected with disease; and political assassinations have been 
appallingly frequent of late years. Railway travelling has its 
risks; motoring has its risks; aeroplaning has its risks; every 
advance we make costs us a risk of some sort. And though 
these are only risks to the individual, to the community they 
are certainties. It is not certain that I will be killed this year 
in a railway accident; but it is certain that somebody will. 
The invention of printing and the freedom of the press have 
brought upon us, not merely risks of their abuse, but the 
establishment as part of our social routine of some of the 
worst evils a community can suffer from. People who realize 
these evils shriek for the suppression of motor cars, the 
virtual imprisonment and enslavement of the young, the 
passing of Press Laws (especially in Egypt, India, and Ire- 
land), exactly as they shriek for a censorship of the stage. 
The freedom of the stage will be abused just as certainly as 
the complaisance and innocence of the censorship is abused 
at present. It will also be used by writers like myself for 
raising very difficult and disturbing questions, social, polit- 
ical, and religious, at moments which may be extremely in- 
convenient to the government. Is it certain that a Committe 
of the Privy Council would stand up to all this as the price of 
liberty? I doubt it. If I am to be at the mercy of a nice 
amiable Committee of elderly gentlemen (I know all about 
elderly gentlemen, being one myself) whose motto is the 
highly popular one, "Anything for a quiet life," and who 
will make the inevitable abuses of freedom by our black- 
guards an excuse for interfering with any disquieting use of 
it by myself, then I shall be worse off than I am with the 



Lord Chamberlain, whose mind is not broad enough to 
obstruct the whole range of thought. If it were, he would be 
given a more difficult post. 

And here I may be reminded that if I prefer the Lord 
Chamberlain I can go to the Lord Chamberlain, who is to 
retain all his present functions for the benefit of those who 
prefer to be judged by him. But I am not so sure that the 
Lord Chamberlain will be able to exercise those functions 
for long if resort to him is to be optional. Let me be kinder 
to him than he has been to me, and uncover for him the 
pitfalls which the Joint Select Committee have dug (and 
concealed) in his path. Consider how the voluntary system 
must inevitably work. The Joint Select Committee expressly 
urges that the Lord Chamberlain's licence must not be a bar 
to a prosecution. Granted that in spite of this reservation the 
licence would prove in future as powerful a defence as it has 
been in the past, yet the voluntary clause nevertheless places 
the manager at the mercy of any author who makes it a con- 
dition of his contract that his play shall not be submitted for 
licence. I should probably take that course without opposi- 
tion from the manager. For the manager, knowing that three 
of my plays have been refused a licence, and that it would be 
far safer to produce a play for which no licence had been 
asked than one for which it had been asked and refused, 
would agree that it was more prudent, in my case, to avail 
himself of the power of dispensing with the Lord Chamber- 
lain's licence. But now mark the consequences. The man- 
ager, having thus discovered that his best policy was to 
dispense with the licence in the few doubtful cases, would 
presently ask himself why he should spend two guineas each 
on licences for the many plays as to which no question could 
conceivably arise. What risk does any manager run in pro- 
ducing such works as Sweet Lavender, Peter Pan, The 
Silver King, or any of the 99 per cent of plays that are equally 
neutral on controversial questions. Does anyone seriously 
believe that the managers would continue to pay the Lord 


Chamberlain two guineas a play out of mere love and loyalty, 
only to create an additional risk in the case of controversial 
plays, and to guard against risks that do not exist in the case 
of the great bulk of other productions? Only those would 
remain faithful to him who produce such plays as the Select 
Committee began by discussing in camera^ and ended by re- 
fusing to discuss at all because they were too nasty. These 
people would still try to get a licence, and would still no 
doubt succeed as they do today. But could the King's Reader 
of Plays live on his fees from these plays alone; and if he 
could how long would his post survive the discredit of licens- 
ing only pornographic plays? It is clear to me that the Ex- 
aminer would be starved out of existence, and the censorship 
perish of desuetude. Perhaps that is exactly what the Select 
Committee contemplated. If so, I have nothing more to say, 
except that I think sudden death would be more merciful. 

In the meantime, conceive the situation which would 
arise if a licensed play were prosecuted. To make it clearer, 
let us imagine any other offender say a company promoter 
with a fraudulent prospectus pleading in Court that he 
had induced the Lord Chamberlain to issue a certificate that 
the prospectus contained nothing objectionable, and that on 
the strength of that certificate he issued it; also, that by law 
the Court could do nothing to him except order him to wind 
up this company. Some such vision as this must have come to 
Lord Gorell when he at last grappled seriously with the pro- 
blem. Mr Harcourt seized the opportunity to make a last 
rally. He seconded Lord GoreH's proposal that the Com- 
mittee should admit that its scheme of an optional censor- 
ship was an elaborate absurdity, and report that all censor- 
ship before production was out of the question. But it was 
too late: the volte face was too sudden and complete. It was 
Lord Gorell whose vote had turned the close division which 
took place on the question of receiving my statement. It was 
Lord Gorell without whose countenance and authority the 
farce of the books could never have been performed. Yet 

here was Lord Gorell, after assenting to all the provisions 
for the optional censorship paragraph by paragraph, sud- 
denly informing his colleagues that they had been wrong all 
through and that I had been right all through, and inviting 
them to scrap half their work and adopt my conclusion. No 
wonder Lord Gorell got only one vote: that of Mr Harcourt. 
But the incident is not the less significant. Lord Gorell carried 
more weight than any other member of the Committee on the 
legal and constitutional aspect of the question. Had he be- 
gun where he left off had he at the outset put down his foot 
on the notion that an optional penal law could ever be any- 
thing but a gross contradiction in terms, that part of the Com- 
mittee's proposals would never have come into existence. 

I do not, however, appeal to Lord Gorell's judgment on 
all points. It is inevitable that a judge should be deeply im- 
pressed by his professional experience with a sense of the 
impotence of judges and laws and courts to deal satisfac- 
torily with evils which are so Protean and elusive as to defy 
definition, and which yet seem to present quite simple prob- 
lems to the common sense of men of the world. You have 
only to imagine the Privy Council as consisting of men of 
the world highly endowed with common sense, to persuade 
yourself that the supplementing of the law by the common 
sense of the Privy Council would settle the whole difficulty. 
But no man knows what he means by common sense, though 
every man can tell you that it is very uncommon, even in 
Privy Councils. And since every ploughman is a man of the 
world, it is evident that even the phrase itself does not mean 
what it says. As a matter of fact, it means in ordinary use 
simply a man who will not make himself disagreeable for the 
sake of a principle: just the sort of man who should never be 
allowed to meddle with political rights. Now to a judge a 
political right, that is, a dogma which is above our laws and 
conditions our laws, instead of being subject to them, is 
anarchic and abhorrent. That is why I trust Lord Gorell 


when he is defending the integrity of the law against the 
proposal to make it in any sense optional, whilst I very 
strongly mistrust him, as I mistrust all professional judges, 
when political rights are in danger. 


I must conclude by recommending the Government to 
take my advice wherever it conflicts with that of the Joint 
Select Committee. It is, I think, obviously more deeply con- 
sidered and better informed, though I say it that should not. 
At all events, I have given my reasons; and at that I must 
leave it. As the tradition which makes Malvolio not only 
Master of the Revels but Master of the Mind of England, 
and which has come down to us from Henry VIIL, is mani- 
festly doomed to the dustbin, the sooner it goes there the 
better; for the democratic control which naturally succeeds 
it can easily be limited so as to prevent it becoming either a 
censorship or a tyranny. The Examiner of Plays should re- 
ceive a generous pension, and be set free to practise pri- 
vately as an expert adviser of theatrical managers. There is 
no reason why they should be deprived of the counsel they 
so highly value. 

It only remains to say that public performances of The 
Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet are still prohibited in Great 
Britain by the Lord Chamberlain. An attempt was made to 
prevent even its performance in Ireland by some indiscreet 
Castle officials in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant. This 
attempt gave extraordinary publicity to the production of 
the play; and every possible effort was made to persuade the 
Irish public that the performance would be an outrage to 
their religion, and to provoke a repetition of the rioting that 
attended the first performances of Synge's Playboy of the 
Western World before the most sensitive and, on provoca- 
tion, the most turbulent audience in the kingdom. The di- 
rectors of the Irish National Theatre, Lady Gregory and 
Mr William Butler Yeats, rose to the occasion with inspirit- 
ing courage. I am a conciliatory person, and was willing, as 
I always am, to make every concession in return for having 



my own way. But Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats not only 
would not yield an inch, but insisted, within the due limits 
of gallant warfare, on taking the field with every circum- 
stance of defiance, and winning the battle with every trophy 
of victory. Their triumph was as complete as they could have 
desired. The performance exhausted the possibilities of suc- 
cess, and provoked no murmur, though it inspired several 
approving sermons. Later on, Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats 
brought the play to London and performed it under the 
Lord Chamberlain's nose, through the instrumentality of 
the Stage Society. 

After this, the play was again submitted to the Lord 
Chamberlain. But, though beaten, he, too, understands the 
art of How Not To Do It. He licensed the play, but endorsed 
on his licence the condition that all the passages which im- 
plicated God in the history of Blanco Posnet must be omitted 
in representation. All the coarseness, the profligacy, the pro- 
stitution, the violence, the drinking-bar humor into which 
the light shines in the play are licensed, but the light itself 
is extinguished. I need hardly say that I have not availed my- 
self of this licence, and do not intend to. There is enough 
licensed darkness in our theatres today without my adding 
to it. 

July 1910. 



POSTSCRIPT. Since the above was written the Lord 
Chamberlain has made an attempt to evade his responsibility 
and perhaps to postpone his doom by appointing an advisory 
committee, unknown to the law, on which he will presum- 
ably throw any odium that may attach to refusals of licences 
in the future. This strange and lawless body will hardly re- 
assure our moralists, who object much more to the plays he 
licenses than to those he suppresses, and are therefore un- 
moved by his plea that his refusals are few and far between. 
It consists of two eminent actors (one retired), an Oxford 
professor of literature, and two eminent barristers. As their 
assembly is neither created by statute nor sanctioned by cus- 
tom, it is difficult to know what to call it until it advises the 
Lord Chamberlain to deprive some author of his means of 
livelihood, when it will, I presume, become a conspiracy, 
and be indictable accordingly; unless, indeed, it can persuade 
the Courts to recognize it as a new Estate of the Realm, cre- 
ated by the Lord Chamberlain. This constitutional position 
is so questionable that I strongly advise the members to re- 
sign promptly before the Lord Chamberlain gets them into 



y4 NUMBER of women are sitting together in a big room 

/\ not unlike an old English tithe barn in its timbered con- 

A. Instruction, but with windows high up next the roof. It is 

furnished as a courthouse, with the floor raisednext the walls, and 

on this raisedflooringa seat for the Sheriff, a rough jury box on his 

right) and a bar to put prisoners to on his left. In the well in the 

middle is a table with benches round it. A few other benches are 

in disorder round the room. The autumn sun is shining warmly 

through the windows and the open door. The women, whose dress 

and speech are those of pioneers of civilization in a territory of the 

United States of America, are seated round the table and on the 

benches, shucking nuts. The conversation is at its height. 

BABSY [a bumptious young slattern, with some good looks] I 
say that a man that would steal a horse would do anything. 

LOTTIE [a sentimental girl, neat and clean] Well, I never 
should look at it in that way. I do think killing a man is 
worse any day than stealing a horse. 

HANNAH [elderly and wise] I dont say it's right to kill a 
man. In a place like this, where every man has to have a re- 
volver, and where theres so much to try people's tempers, the 
men get to be a deal too free with one another in the way of 
shooting. God knows it's hard enough to have to bring a boy 
into the world and nurse him up to be a man only to have 
him brought home to you on a shutter, perhaps for nothing, 
or only just to shew that the man that killed him wasnt afraid 
of him. But men are like children when they get a gun in their 
hands: theyre not content til theyve used it on somebody. 

JESSIE [a good-natured but sharp-tongued, hoity-toity young 
woman; Babsy's rivalin good looks and her superior in tidiness] 
They shoot for the love of it. Look at them at a lynching. 
Theyre not content to hang the man; but directly the poor 
creature is swung up they all shoot him full of holes, wasting 
their cartridges that cost solid money, and pretending they 
do it in horror of his wickedness, though half of them would 
have a rope round their own necks if all they did was known. 
Let alone the mess it makes. 

LOTTIE. I wish we could get more civilized. I dont like all 



this lynching and shooting. I dont believe any of us like it, 
if the truth were known. 

BABSY. Our Sheriff is a real strong man. You want a strong 
man for a rough lot like our people here. He aint afraid to 
shoot and he aint afraid to hang. Lucky for us quiet ones, too. 

JESSIE. Oh, dont talk to me. I know what men are. Of 
course he aint afraid to shoot and he aint afraid to hang. 
Wheres the risk in that with the law on his side and the whole 
crowd at his back longing for the lynching as if it was a spree ? 
Would one of them own to it or let him own to it if they 
lynched the wrong man? Not them. What they call justice 
in this place is nothing but a breaking out of the devil thats 
in all of us. What I want to see is a Sheriff that aint afraid 
not to shoot and not to hang. 

EMMA [a sneak who sides with Babsy or Jessie, according to 
the fortune of war} Well, I must say it does sicken me to see 
Sheriff Kemp putting down his foot, as he calls it. Why dont 
he put it down on his wife? She wants it worse than half the 
men he lynches. He and his Vigilance Committee, in- 

BABSY [incensed\ Oh, well! if people are going to take the 
part of horse-thieves against the Sheriff ? 

JESSIE. Who's taking the part of horse-thieves against 
the Sheriff? 

BABSY. You are. Waitle your own horse is stolen, and 
youll know better. I had an uncle that died of thirst in the 
sage brush because a negro stole his horse. But they caught 
him and burned him; and serve him right, too. 

EMMA. I have known a child that was born crooked be- 
cause its mother had to do a horse's work that was stolen. 

BABSY. There ! You hear that ? I say stealing a horse is ten 
times worse than killing a man. And if the Vigilance Com- 
mittee ever gets hold of you, youd better have killed twenty 
men than as much as stole a saddle or bridle, much less a 

Elder Daniels comes in. 

ELDER DANIELS. Sorry to disturb you, ladies ; but the Vigi- 


lance Committee has taken a prisoner; and they want the 
room to try him in. 

JESSIE. But they cant try him til Sheriff Kemp comes 
back from the wharf. 

ELDER DANIELS. Yes; but we have to keep the prisoner 
here til he comes. 

BABSY. What do you want to put him here for? Cant you 
tie him up in the Sheriffs stable? 

ELDER DANIELS. He has a soul to be saved, almost like the 
rest of us. I am bound to try to put some religion into him 
before he goes into his Maker's presence after the trial. 

HANNAH. What has he done, Mr Daniels? 

ELDER DANIELS. Stole a horse. 

BABSY. And are we to be turned out of the town hall for a 
horse- thief? Aint a stable good enough for his religion? 

ELDER DANIELS. It may be good enough for his, Babsy; 
but, by your leave, it is not good enough for mine. While I 
am Elder here, I shall umbly endeavour to keep up the dig- 
nity of Him I serve to the best of my small ability. So I must 
ask you to be good enough to clear out. Allow me. [He takes 
the sack of husks and puts it out of the way against the panels of 
the jury box]. 

THE WOMEN [murmuring] Thats always the way. Just as 
we'd settled down to work. What harm are we doing? Well, 
it is tiresome. Let them finish the job themselves. Oh dear, 
oh dear! We cant have a minute to ourselves. Shoving us 
out like that! 

HANNAH. Whose horse was it, Mr Daniels? 

ELDER DANIELS [returning to move the other sack] I am sorry 
to say it was the Sheriffs horse the one he loaned to young 
Strapper. Strapper loaned it to me; and the thief stole it, 
thinking it was mine. If it had been mine, I'd have forgiven 
him cheerfully. I'm sure I hoped he would get away; for he 
had two hours start of the Vigilance Committee. But they 
caught him. [He disposes of the other sack also]. 

JESSIE. It cant have been much of a horse if they caught 
him with two hours start. 



ELDER DANIELS [comingback to the centre of the group] The 
strange thing is that he wasnt on the horse when they took 
him. He was walking; and of course he denies that he ever 
had the horse. The Sheriff's brother wanted to tie him up 
and lash him til he confessed what he'd done with it; but I 
couldnt allow that: it's not the law. 

BABSY. Law! What right has a horse-thief to any law? 
Law is thrown away on a brute like that. 

ELDER DANIELS. Dont say that, Babsy. No man should be 
made to confess by cruelty until religion has been tried and 
failed. Please God 111 get the whereabouts of the horse from 
him if youll be so good as to clear out from this. [Disturbance]. 
They are bringing him in. Now ladies! please, please. 

They rise reluctantly. Hannah, Jessie, and Lottie retreat to 
the Sheriffs bench, shepherded by Daniels; but the other women 
crowd forward behind Babsy and Emma to see the prisoner. 

Blanco Posnet is brought in by Strapper Kemp, the Sheriffs 
brother, and a cross-eyed man called Squinty* Others follow. 
Blanco is evidently a blackguard. It would be necessary to clean 
him to makeacloseguessathisage;butheisunderforty,andan up- 
turned, red moustache, and the arrangement of his hair in a crest 
on his brow, proclaim the dandy in spite of his intense disreput- 
ableness. He carries his head high, and has a fairly resolute 
mouth, though the fire of incipient delirium tremensisinhiseye. 

His arms areboundwitharopewithalongend,whichSquinty 
holds* They release him when he enters; and he stretches himself 
and lounges across the courthouse in front of the women. Strapper 
and the men remain between him and the door* 

BABSY [spitting at him as he passes her] Horse-thief! horse- 

OTHERS. You will hang for it; do you hear? And serve 
you right. Serve you right. That will teach you. I wouldnt 
wait to try you. Lynch him straight off, the varmint. Yes, 
yes. Tell the boys. Lynch him. 

BLANCO [mocking] "Angels ever bright and fair " 

BABSY. You call me an angel, and I'll smack your dirty 
face for you. 


BLANCO. "Take, oh take me to your care." 

EMMA. There wont be any angels where youre going to. 

OTHERS. Aha! Devils, more likely. And too good com- 
pany for a horse-thief. 

ALL. Horse- thief ! Horse-thief! Horse-thief! 

BLANCO. Do women make the law here, or men? Drive 
these heifers out. 

THE WOMEN. Oh ! [They rush at him, vituperating, scream- 
andrunsput. Hannah/allows, shakingherhead. Blanco is thrown 
down]. Oh, did you hear what he called us ? You foul-mouthed 
brute! You liar! How dare you put such a name to a decent 
woman? Let me get at him. You coward! Oh, he struck me: 
did you see that? Lynch him! Pete, will you stand by and 
hear me called names by a skunk like that? Burn him: burn 
him ! Thats what I'd do with him. Aye, burn him! 

THE MEN \pullingthe women away from Blanco, and getting 
them out partly by violence and partly by coaxing] Here! come 
out of this. Let him alone. Clear the courthouse* Come on 
now. Out with you. Now, Sally: out you go. Let go my hair, 
or Til twist your arm out. Ah, would you? Now, then: get 
along. You know you must go. Whats the use of scratching 
like that? Now, ladies, ladies, ladies. How would you like it 
if you were going to be hanged? 

At last the women are pushed out, leaving Elder Daniels, the 
Sheriffs brother Strapper Kemp, and a few others with Blanco. 
Strapper is a lad just turning into a man: strong, selfish^ sulky, 
and determined. 

BLANCO [sitting up and tidying himselfl 
Oh woman, in our hours of ease, 
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please 
Is my face scratched? I can feel their damned claws all over 
me still Am I bleeding? [He sits on the nearest bench]. 

ELDER DANIELS. Nothing to hurt. Theyve drawn a drop 
or two under your left eye. 

STRAPPER. Lucky for you to have an eye left in your head. 

BLANCO [wiping the blood ojff] 



When pain and anguish wring the brow, 
A ministering angel thou. 

Go out to them. Strapper Kemp; and tell them about your 
big brother's little horse that some wicked man stole. Go and 
cry in your mammy's lap. 

STRAPPER \furious]You jounce me any more about that 
horse, Blanco Posnet; and I'll I'll 

BLANCO. Youll scratch my face, wont you? Yah! Your 
brother's the Sheriff, aint he? 

STRAPPER. Yes, he is. He hangs horse-thieves. 

BLANCO [with calm conviction] He's a rotten Sheriff. Oh, 
a rotten Sheriff. If he did his first duty he'd hang himself. 
This is a rotten town. Your fathers came here on a false 
alarm of gold-digging; and when the gold didnt pan out, 
they lived by licking their young into habits of honest in- 

STRAPPER. If I hadnt promised Elder Daniels here to give 
him a chance to keep you out of Hell, I'd take the job of 
twisting your neck off the hands of the Vigilance Com- 

BLANCO [with infinite scorn] You and your rotten Elder, 
and your rotten Vigilance Committee ! 

STRAPPER. Theyre sound enough to hang a horse-thief, 

BLANCO. Any fool can hang the wisest man in the country. 
Nothing he likes better. But you cant hang me. 

STRAPPER. Cant we? 

BLANCO. No, you cant. I left the town this morning be- 
fore sunrise, because it's a rotten town, and I couldnt bear 
to see it in the light. Your brother's horse did the same, as 
any sensible horse would. Instead of going to look for the 
horse, you went looking for me. That was a rotten thing to 
do, because the horse belonged to your brother or to the 
man he stole it from and I dont belong to him. Well, you 
found me; but you didnt find the horse. If I had took the 
horse, I'd have been on the horse. Would I have taken all 
that time to get to where I did if I'd a horse to carry me? 


STRAPPER. I dont believe you started not for two hours 
after you say you did. 

BLANCO. Who cares what you believe or dont believe? Is 
a man worth six of you to be hanged because youve lost your 
big brother's horse, and youll want to kill somebody to re- 
lieve your rotten feelings when he licks you for it? Not likely. 
Til you can find a witness that saw me with that horse you 
cant touch me; and you know it. 

STRAPPER. Is that the law. Elder? 

ELDER DANIELS. The Sheriff knows the law. I wouldnt 
say for sure; but I think it would be more seemly to have a 
witness. Go and round one up, Strapper; and leave me here 
alone to wrestle with his poor blinded souL 

STRAPPER. I'll get a witness all right enough. I know the 
road he took; and Til ask at every house within sight of it 
for a mile out. Come, boys, 

Strapper goes out with the others, leaving Blanco and Elder 
Daniels together. Blanco rises and strolls over to the Elder ^ sur- 
veying him with extreme disparagement. 

BLANCO. Well, brother? Well, Boozy Posnet, alias Elder 
Daniels? Well, thief? Well, drunkard? 

ELDER DANIELS, It's no good, Blanco. Theyll never be- 
lieve we're brothers. 

BLANCO. Never fear. Do you suppose I want to claim you ? 
Do you suppose I'm proud of you? Youre a rotten brother, 
Boozy Posnet. All you ever did when I owned you was to 
borrow money from me to get drunk with. Now you lend 
money and sell drink to other people. I was ashamed of you 
before; and I'm worse ashamed of you now. I wont have you 
for a brother. Heaven gave you to me; but I return the bless- 
ing without thanks. So be easy: I shant blab. [He turns his 
back on him and sits down]. 

ELDER DANIELS. I tell you they wouldnt believe you; so 
what does it matter to me whether you blab or not? Talk 
sense, Blanco: theres no time for your foolery now; for youll 
be a dead man an hour after the Sheriff comes back. What 
possessed you to steal that horse? 



BLANCO I didnt steal it. I distrained on it for what you 
owed me. I thought it was yours. I was a fool to think that 
you owned anything but other people's property. You laid 
your hands on everything father and mother had when they 
died. I never asked you for a fair share. I never asked you for 
all the money I'd lent you from time to time. I asked you for 
mother's old necklace with the hair locket in it. You wouldnt 
give me that: you wouldnt give me anything. So as you re- 
fused me my due I took it, just to give you a lesson. 

ELDER DANIELS. Why didnt you take the necklace if you 
must steal something? They wouldnt have hanged you for 

BLANCO. Perhaps I'd rather be hanged for stealing a horse 
than let off for a damned piece of sentimentality. 

ELDER DANIELS. Oh, Blanco, Blanco: spiritual pride has 
been your ruin. If youd only done like me, youd be a free and 
respectable man this day instead of laying there with a rope 
round your neck. 

BLANCO [fuming on him] Done like you! What do you 
mean ? Drink like you, eh ? Well, I ve done some of that lately. 
I see things. 

ELDER DANIELS. Too late, Blanco: too late. [Convulsively] 
Oh, why didnt you drink as I used to? Why didnt you drink 
as I was led to by the Lord for my good, until the time came 
for me to give it up? It was drink that saved my character 
when I was a young man; and it was the want of it that 
spoiled yours. Tell me this. Did I ever get drunk when I 
was working? 

BLANCO. No but then you never worked when you had 
money enough to get drunk. 

ELDER DANIELS. That just shews the wisdom of Provi- 
dence and the Lord's mercy. God fulfils himself in many 
ways: ways we little think of when we try to set up our own 
shortsighted laws against his Word. When does the Devil 
catch hold of a man ? Not when he's working and not when 
he's drunk; but when he's idle and sober. Our own natures 
tell us to drink when we have nothing else to do. Look at you 


and me! When we'd both earned a pocketful of money, what 
did we do ? Went on the spree, naturally. But I was humble 
minded. I did as the rest did. I gave my money in at the 
drink-shop; and I said, "Fire me out when I have drunk it 
all up." Did you ever see me sober while it lasted? 

BLANCO. No; and you looked so disgusting that I wonder 
it didnt set me against drink for the rest of my life. 

ELDER DANIELS. That was your spiritual pride, Blanco. 
You never reflected that when I was drunk I was in a state 
of innocence. Temptations and bad company and evil 
thoughts passed by me like the summer wind as you might 
say: I was too drunk to notice them. When the money was 
gone, and they fired me out, I was fired out like gold out of 
the furnace, with my character unspoiled and unspotted; 
and when I went back to work, the work kept me steady. 
Can you say as much, Blanco ? Did your holidays leave your 
character unspoiled? Oh, no, no. It was theatres: it was 
gambling: it was evil company : it was reading vain romances : 
it was women, Blanco, women: it was wrong thoughts and 
gnawing discontent. It ended in your becoming a rambler 
and a gambler: it is going to end this evening on the gallows 
tree. Oh, what a lesson against spiritual pride! Oh, what a 
[Blanco throws his hat at him]. 

BLANCO. Stow it, Boozy. Sling it. Cut it. Cheese it. Shut 
up. "Shake not the dying sinner's sand." 

ELDER DANIELS. Aye: there you go, with your scraps of 
lustful poetry. But you cant deny what I tell you. Why, do 
you think I would put my soul in peril by selling drink if I 
thought it did no good, as them silly temperance reformers 
make out, flying in the face of the natural tastes implanted 
in us all for a good purpose? Not if I was to starve for it to- 
morrow. But I know better. I tell you, Blanco, what keeps 
America to-day the purest of the nations is that when she's 
not working she's too drunk to hear the voice of the tempter. 

BLANCO. Dont deceive yourself, Boozy. You sell drink 
because you make a bigger profit out of it than you can by 
selling tea. And you gave up drink yourself because when 


you got that fit at Edwardstown the doctor told you youd 
die the next time; and that frightened you off it. 

ELDER DANIELS [fervently] Oh thank God selling drink 
pays me! And thank God He sent me that fit as a warning 
that my drinking time was past and gone, and that He needed 
me for another service! 

BLANCO. Take care, Boozy. He hasnt finished with you 
yet. He always has a trick up His sleeve 

ELDER DANIELS. Oh, is that the way to speak of the ruler 
of the universe the great and almighty God? 

BLANCO. He's a sly one. He's a mean one. He lies low for 
you. He plays cat and mouse with you. He lets you run loose 
until you think youre shut of Him; and then, when you least 
expect it, He's got you. 

ELDER DANIELS. Speak more respectful, Blanco more 

BLANCO [springingup and coming at Aim] Reverent! Who 
taught you your reverent cant? Not your Bible. It says He 
cometh like a thief in the night aye, like a thief a horse- 

ELDER DANIELS [shocked] Oh ! 

BLANCO [overbearing Aim] And it's true. Thats how He 
caught me and put my neck into the halter. To spite me 
because I had no use for Him because I lived my own life 
in my own way, and would have no truck with His "Dont do 
this," and "You mustnt do that," and "Youll go to Hell if 
you do the other." I gave Him the go-bye and did without 
Him all these years. But He caught me out at last. The laugh 
is with Him as far as hanging me goes. [He thrusts his hands 
into his pockets and lounges moodily away from Daniels > to the 
table, where he sits facing the jury box]. 

ELDER DANIELS. Dont dare to put your theft on Him, 
man. It was the Devil tempted you to steal the horse. 

BLANCO. Not a bit of it. Neither God nor Devil tempted 
me to take the horse: I took it on my own. He had a cleverer 
trick than that ready for me. [He takes his hands out of his 
pockets and clenches his fists]. Gosh ! When I think that I might 



have been safe and fifty miles away by now with that horse; 
and here I am waiting to be hung up and filled with lead! 
What came to me ? What made me such a fool ? Thats what I 
want to know. Thats the great secret. 

ELDER DANIELS [at the opposite side of the table] Blanco : the 
great secret now is, what did you do with the horse? 

BLANCO [striking the table with his fist] May my lips be 
blighted like my soul if ever I tell that to you or any mortal 
man! They may roast me alive or cut me to ribbons; but 
Strapper Kemp shall never have the laugh on me over that 
job. Let them hang me. Let them shoot. So long as they are 
shooting a man and not a snivelling skunk and softy, I can 
stand up to them and take all they can give me game. 

ELDER DANIELS. Dont be headstrong, Blanco. Whats the 
use? [Slyly] They might let up on you if you put Strapper in 
the way of getting his brother's horse back. 

BLANCO. Not they. Hanging's too big a treat for them to 
give up a fair chance. Ive done it myself. Ive yelled with the 
dirtiest of them when a man no worse than myself was swung 
up. Ive emptied my revolver into him, and persuaded myself 
that he deserved it and that I was doing justice with strong 
stern men. Well, my turn's come now. Let the men I yelled 
at and shot at look up out of Hell and see the boys yelling and 
shooting at me as / swing up. 

ELDER DANIELS. Well, even if you want to be hanged, is 
that any reason why Strapper shouldnt have his horse? I tell 
you Fm responsible to him for it, [Bending over the table and 
coaxing him]. Act like a brother, Blanco: tell me what you 
done with it. 

BLANCO [shortly, getting up and leaving the table] Never 
you mind what I done with it. I was done out of it : let that be 
enough for you. 

ELDER DANIELS [following him] Then why dont you put us 
on to the man that done you out of it? 

BLANCO. Because he'd be too clever for you, just as he was 
too clever for me. 

ELDER DANIELS. Make your mind easy about that, Blanco. 



He wont be too clever for the boys and Sheriff Kemp if you 
put them on his trail. 

BLANCO. Yes, he will. It wasnt a man. 

ELDER DANIELS. Then what was it? 

BLANCO [pointing upward\ Him. 

ELDER DANIELS. Oh what a way to utter His holy name! 

BLANCO. He done me out of it. He meant to pay off old 
scores by bringing me here. He means to win the deal and 
you cant stop Him. Well, He's made a fool of me; but He 
cant frighten me. I'm not going to beg off. I'll fight off if I 
get a chance. I'll lie off if they cant get a witness against me. 
But back down I never will, not if all the hosts of heaven 
come to snivel at me in white surplices and offer me my life 
in exchange for an umble and a contrite heart. 

ELDER DANIELS. Youre not in your right mind. Blanco. 
I'll tell em youre mad. I believe theyll let you off on that. 
[He makes for the door]. 

BLANCO [seizing him, with horror in his yes\ Dont go: 
dont leave me alone: do you hear? 

ELDER DANIELS. Has your conscience brought you to this 
that youre afraid to be left alone in broad daylight, like a 
child in the dark. 

BLANCO. I'm afraid of Him and His tricks. When I have 
you to raise the devil in me when I have people to shew off 
before and keep me game, I'm all right; but Ive lost my 
nerve for being alone since this morning* It's when youre 
alone that He takes His advantage. He might turn my head 
again. He might send people to me not real people per- 
haps. [Shivering^ By God, I dont believe that woman and 
the child were real. I dont. I never noticed them til they were 
at my elbow. 

ELDER DANIELS. What woman and what child? What are 
you talking about? Have you been drinking too hard? 

BLANCO. Never you mind. Youve got to stay with me: 
thats all; or else send someone else someone rottener than 
yourself to keep the devil in me* Strapper Kemp will do. Or 
a few of those scratching devils of women, 



Strapper Kemp comes back. 

ELDER DANIELS [to Strapper] He's gone off his head. 

STRAPPER. Foxing, more likely. [Going past Daniels and 
talking to Blanco nose to nose]. It's no good: we hang mad- 
men here; and a good job too! 

BLANCO. I feel safe with you. Strapper. Youre one of the 

STRAPPER. You know youre done, and that you may as 
well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. So talk away. Ive got 
my witness; and I'll trouble you not to make a move towards 
her when she comes in to identify you. 

BLANCO [retreating in terror] A woman? She aint real: 
neither is the child. 

ELDER DANIELS. He's raving about a woman and a child. 
I tell you he's gone off his chump. 

STRAPPER [calling to those without] Shew the lady in there. 

Feemy Evans comes in. She is a young woman of 23 or 24, 
with impudent manners, battered good looks,, and dirty-fine dress. 

ELDER DANIELS. Morning, Feemy. 

FEEMY. Morning, Elder. [She passes on and slips her arm 
familiarly through Strapper's]. 

STRAPPER. Ever see him before, Feemy? 

FEEMY. Thats the little lot that was on your horse this 
morning, Strapper. Not a doubt of it. 

BLANCO [implacably contemptuous] Go home and wash 
yourself, you slut. 

FEEMY [reddening) anddisengagingherarmfrom Strapper's] 
I'm clean enough to hang you, anyway. [Going over to him 
threateningly]. Youre no true American man, to insult a 
woman like that. 

BLANCO* A woman! Oh Lord! You saw me on a horse, 
did you? 

FEEMY. Yes, I did. 

BLANCO. Got up early on purpose to do it, didnt you? 

FEEMY. No I didnt: I stayed up late on a spree* 

BLANCO. I was on a horse, was I? 

FEEMY. Yes you were; and if you deny it youre a liar. 



BLANCO [to Strapper] She saw a man on a horse when she 
was too drunk to tell which was the man and which was the 

FEEMY [breaking in] You lie. I wasnt drunk at least not 
as drunk as that. 

BLANCO [ignoring the interruption] and you found a man 
without a horse. Is a man on a horse the same as a man on 
foot? Yah! Take your witness away. Who's going to believe 
her? Throw her out on the dump. Youve got to find that 
horse before you get a rope round my neck. [He turns away 
from her contemptuously, and sits at the table with his back to the 
jury box]. 

FEEMY [following him] I'll hang you, you dirty horse- 
thief; or not a man in this camp will ever get a word or a look 
from me again. Youre just trash: thats what you are. White 

BLANCO. And what are you, darling? What are you? 
Youre a worse danger to a town like this than ten horse- 

FEEMY. Mr Kemp: will you stand by and hear me in- 
sulted in that low way? [To Blanco^ spitefully] I'll see you 
swung up and I'll see you cut down: I'll see you high and 
Til see you low, as dangerous as I am. [He laughs]. Oh you 
neednt try to brazen it out. Youll look white enough before 
the boys are done with you. 

BLANCO. You do me good, Feemy, Stay by me to the end, 
wont you? Hold my hand to the last; and I'll die game. [He 
puts out his hand: she strikes savagely at it; but he withdraws it 
in time and laughs at her discornfiture]. 


ELDER DANIELS. Never mind him, Feemy : he's not right 
in his head to-day. [She receives the assurance with con- 
temptuous incredulity y and sits down on the step of the Sheriffs 

Sheriff Kemp comes in: a stout man y with large flat ears, and 
a neck thicker than his head. 

ELDER DANIELS. Morning, Sheriff. 


THE SHERIFF. Morning, Elder. [Passing on]. Morning, 
Strapper. [Passing on]. Morning, Miss Evans. [Stopping 
between Strapper and Blanco]. Is this the prisoner? 

BLANCO [rising] Thats so. Morning, Sheriff. 

THE SHERIFF. Morning. You know, I suppose, that if 
youve stole a horse and the jury find against you, you wont 
have any time to settle your affairs. Consequently, if you 
feel guilty, youd better settle em now. 

B.LANCO. Affairs be damned! Ive got none. 

THE SHERIFF. Well, are you in a proper state of mind? 
Has the Elder talked to you? 

BLANCO. He has. And I say it's against the law. It's 
torture: thats what it is. 

ELDER DANIELS. He's not accountable. He's out of his 
mind, Sheriff. He's not fit to go into the presence of his 

THE SHERIFF. You are a merciful man, Elder; but you 
wont take the boys with you there. [To Blanco] If it comes to 
hanging you, youd better for your own sake be hanged in a 
proper state of mind than in an improper one. But it wont 
make any difference to us: make no mistake about that. 

BLANCO. Lord keep me wicked till I die ! Now Ive said my 
little prayer. I'm ready. Not that I'm guilty, mind you; but 
this is a rotten town, dead certain to do the wrong thing. 

THE SHERIFF. You wont be asked to live long in it, I 
guess. [To Strapper] Got the witness all right, Strapper? 

STRAPPER. Yes, got everything. 

BLANCO. Except the horse. 

THE SHERIFF. Whats that ? Aint you got the horse? 

STRAPPER. No. He traded it before we overtook him, I 
guess. But Feemy saw him on it. 

FEEMY, She did. 

STRAPPER. Shall I call in the boys? 

BLANCO. Just a moment, Sheriff. A good appearance is 
everything in a low-class place like this. [He takes out a 
pocket comb and mirror y and retires towards the dais to arrange 
his hair]. 



ELDER DANIELS. Oh, think of your immortal soul, man, 
not of your foolish face. 

BLANCO. I cant change my soul, Elder: it changes me 
sometimes. Feemy: I'm too pale. Let me rub my cheek 
against yours, darling. 

FEEMY. You lie: my color's my own, such as it is. And a 
pretty color youll be when youre hung white and shot red. 

BLANCO. Aint she spiteful, Sheriff? 

THE SHERIFF. Time's wasted on you. [To Strapper] Go 
and see if the boys are ready. Some of them were short of 
cartridges, and went down to the store to buy them. They 
may as well have their fun; and itll be shorter for him. 

STRAPPER. Young Jack has brought a boxful up. Theyre 
all ready. 

THE SHERIFF \going to the dais and addressing Blanco] 
Your place is at the bar there. Take it. [Blanco bows ironically 
and goes to the bar]* Miss Evans: youd best sit at the table. 
[She does so, at the corner nearest the 'bar. The Elder takes 
the opposite corner. The Sheriff takes his chair]. All ready, 

STRAPPER [at the door] All in to begin. 

The crowd comes in and fills the court. Babsy, Jessie, and 
Emma come to the Sheriff 9 s right; Hannah and Lottie to his left. 

THE SHERIFF. Silence there. The Jury will take their 
places as usual. [They do so], 

BLANCO, J challenge this jury, Sheriff. 

THE FOREMAN. Do you, by Gosh? 

THE SHERIFF. On what ground? 

BLANCO. On the general ground that it's a rotten jury. 

THE SHERIFF. Thats not a lawful ground of challenge. 

THE FOREMAN. I t's a lawful ground for me to shoot yonder 
skunk at sight, first time I meet him, if he survives this trial. 

BLANCO. I challenge the Foreman because he's preju- 

THE FOREMAN. I say you lie. We mean to hang you, 
Blanco Posnet; but you will be hanged fair. 


THE JURY. Hear, hear! 

STRAPPER [to the Sheriff] George : this is rot. How can you 
get an unprejudiced jury if the prisoner starts by telling 
them theyre all rotten? If theres any prejudice against him 
he has himself to thank for it. 

THE BOYS. Thats so. Of course he has. Insulting the 
court! Challenge be jiggered! Gag him. 

NESTOR [a juryman with a long white beard, drunk, the 
oldest man present] Besides, Sheriff, I go so far as to say that 
the man that is not prejudiced against a horse-thief is not 
fit to sit on a jury in this town. 

THE BOYS. Right. Bully for you, Nestor! Thats the 
straight truth. Of course he aint. Hear, hear! 

THE SHERIFF. That is no doubt true, old man. Still, you 
must get as unprejudiced as you can. The critter has a right 
to his chance, such as he is. So now go right ahead. If the 
prisoner dont like this jury, he should have stole a horse in 
another town; for this is all the jury he'll get here. 

THE FOREMAN. Thats so, Blanco Posnet. 

THE SHERIFF [to Blanco] Dont you be uneasy. You will 
get justice here. It may be rough justice; but it is justice. 

BLANCO. What is justice? 

THE SHERIFF. Hanging horse-thieves is justice; so now 
you know. Now then: weve wasted enough time. Hustle 
with your witness there, will you ? 

BLANCO [indignantly bringing down his fist on the bar] 
Swear the jury. A rotten Sheriff you are not to know that 
the jury's got to be sworn. 

THE FOREMAN [galled] Be swore for you! Not likely. 
What do you say, old son? 

NESTOR [deliberately and solemnly] I say: GUILTY!!! 

THE BOYS [tumultuously rushing at Blanco] Thats it.Guilty, 
guilty. Take him out and hang him. He's found guilty. 
Fetch a rope. Up with him. [They are about to drag him from 
the bar]. 

THE SHERIFF [rising, pistol in hand] Hands off that man. 
Hands off him, I say, Squinty, or I drop you, and would if 



you were my own son. [Dead silence]. I'm Sheriff here; and 
it's for me to say when he may lawfully be hanged. [They 
release him]. 

BLANCO. As the actor says in the play, "a Daniel come to 
judgment." Rotten actor he was, too. 

THE SHERIFF. Elder Daniel is come to judgment all right, 
my lad. Elder: the floor is yours. [The Elder rises]. Give your 
evidence. The truth and the whole truth and nothing but 
the truth, so help you God. 

ELDER DANIELS. Sheriff: let me off this. I didnt ought to 
swear away this man's life. He and I are, in a manner of 
speaking, brothers. 

THE SHERIFF. It does you credit, Elder: every man here 
will acknowledge it. But religion is one thing: law is an- 
other. In religion we're all brothers. In law we cut our 
brother off when he steals horses. 

THE FOREMAN. Besides, you neednt hang him, you 
know. Theres plenty of willing hands to take that job off 
your conscience. So rip ahead, old son. 

STRAPPER. Youre accountable to me for the horse until 
you clear yourself, Elder: remember that. 

BLANCO. Out with it, you fool. 

ELDER DANIELS. You might own up, Blanco, as far as my 
evidence goes. Everybody knows I borrowed one of the 
Sheriff's horses from Strapper because my own's gone lame. 
Everybody knows you arrived in the town yesterday and 
put up in my house. Everybody knows that in the morning 
the horse was gone and you were gone. 

BLANCO [in a forensic manner] Sheriff: the Elder, though 
known to you and to all here as no brother of mine and the 
rottenest liar in this town, is speaking the truth for the first 
time in his life as far as what he says about me is concerned. 
As to the horse, I say nothing; except that it was the rot- 
tenest horse you ever tried to sell. 

THE SHERIFF. How do you know it was a rotten horse if 
you didnt steal it? 

BLANCO. I dont know of my own knowledge. I only ar- 


gue that if the horse had been worth its keep, you wouldnt 
have lent it to Strapper, and Strapper wouldnt have lent it 
to this eloquent and venerable ram. [Suppressed laughter]. 
And now I ask him this. [To the Elder} Did we or did we not 
have a quarrel last evening about a certain article that was 
left by my mother, and that I considered I had a right to 
more than you? And did you say one word to me about the 
horse not belonging to you ? 

ELDER DANIELS. Why should I? We never said a word 
about the horse at all. How was I to know what it was in 
your mind to do? 

BLANCO. Bear witness all that I had a right to take a 
horse from him without stealing to make up for what he 
denied me. I am no thief. But you havnt proved yet that I 
took the horse. Strapper Kemp: had I the horse when you 
took me or had I not? 

STRAPPER. No, nor you hadnt a railway train neither. 
But Feemy Evans saw you pass on the horse at four o'clock 
twenty-five miles from the spot where I took you at seven 
on the road to Pony Harbor. Did you walk twenty-five miles 
in three hours? That so, Feemy? eh? 

FEEMY. Thats so. At four I saw him. [To lanco] Thats 
done for you. 

THE SHERIFF. You say you saw him on my horse? 

FEEMY. I did. 

BLANCO. And I ate it, I suppose, before Strapper fetched 
up with me. [Suddenly and dramatically] Sheriff: I accuse 
Feemy of immoral relations with Strapper. 

FEEMY. Oh you liar! 

BLANCO. I accuse the fair Euphemia of immoral relations 
with every man in this town, including yourself, Sheriff. I 
say this is a conspiracy to kill me between Feemy and 
Strapper because I wouldnt touch Feemy with a pair of 
tongs. I say you darent hang any white man on the word of a 
woman of bad character. I stand on the honor and virtue of 
my American manhood. I say that she's not had the oath, 
and that you darent for the honor of the town give her the 



oath because her lips would blaspheme the holy Bible if they 
touched it. I say thats the law; and if you are a proper 
United States Sheriff and not a low-down lyncher, youll 
hold up the law and not let it be dragged in the mud by 
your brother's kept woman. 

Great excitement among the women. The men much puzzled. 

JESSIE. Thats right. She didnt ought to be let kiss the 

EMMA. How could the like of her tell the truth? 

BABSY. It would be an insult to every respectable woman 
here to believe her. 

FEEMY. It's easy to be respectable with nobody ever of- 
fering you a chance to be anything else. 

THE WOMEN [clamoring all together] Shut up, you hussy. 
Youre a disgrace. How dare you open your lips to answer 
your betters? Hold your tongue and learn your place, miss. 
You painted slut! Whip her out of the town! 

THE SHERIFF. Silence. Do you hear. Silence. [The clamor 
ceases}. Did anyone else see the prisoner with the horse? 

FEEMY [passionately] Aint I good enough? 

BABSY. No. Youre dirt: thats what you are. 

FEEMY. And you 

THE SHERIFF. Silence. This trial is a man's job; and if the 
women forget their sex they can go out or be put out. 
Strapper and Miss Evans: you cant have it two ways. You 
can run straight, or you can run gay, so to speak; but you 
cant run both ways together. There is also a strong feeling 
among the men of this town that a line should be drawn be* 
tween those that are straight wives and mothers and those 
that are, in the words of the Book of Books, taking the prim- 
rose path. We dont wish to be hard on any woman; and 
most of us have a personal regard for Miss Evans for the 
sake of old times; but theres no getting out of the fact that 
she has private reasons for wishing to oblige Strapper, and 
that if she will excuse my saying so she is not what I 
might call morally particular as to what she does to oblige 
him. Therefore I ask the prisoner not to drive us to give 


Miss Evans the oath. I ask him to tell us fair and square, as 
a man who has but a few minutes between him and eternity, 
what he done with my horse. 

THE BOYS. Hear, hear 1 Thats right. Thats fair. That does 
it. Now Blanco. Own up. 

BLANCO. Sheriff: you touch me home. This is a rotten 
world; but there is still one thing in it that remains sacred 
even to the rottenest of us, and that is a horse. 

THE BOYS. Good. Well said, Blanco. Thats straight. 

BLANCO. You have a right to your horse, Sheriff; and if I 
could put you in the way of getting it back, I would. But if I 
had that horse I shouldnt be here. As I hope to be saved, 
Sheriff- or rather as I hope to be damned; for I have no 
taste for pious company and no talent for playing the harp 
I know no more of that horse's whereabouts than you do 

STRAPPER. Who did you trade him to? 

BLANCO. I did not trade him. I got nothing for him or by 
him. I stand here with a rope round my neck for the want of 
him. When you took me, did I fight like a thief or run like a 
thief; and was there any sign of a horse on me or near me ? 

STRAPPER. You were looking at a rainbow like a damned 
silly fool instead of keeping your wits about you; and we 
stole up on you and had you tight before you could draw a 
bead on us. 

THE SHERIFF, That dont sound like good sense. What 
would he look at a rainbow for? 

BLANCO. Pll tell you, Sheriff. I was looking at it because 
there was something written on it? 

SHERIFF. How do you mean written on it? 

BLANCO. The words were, "Ive got the cinch on you this 
time, Blanco Posnet." Yes, Sheriff, I saw those words in 
green on the red streak of the rainbow; and as I saw them I 
felt Strapper's grab on my arm and Squinty's on my pistol. 

THE FOREMAN. He's shammin mad: thats what he is. 
Aint it about time to give a verdict and have a bit of fun, 



THE BOYS. Yes, lets have a verdict. We're wasting the 
whole afternoon. Cut it short. 

THE SHERIFF [making up his mind] Swear Feemy Evans, 
Elder. She dont need to touch the Book. Let her say the 

FEEMY. Worse people than me has kissed that Book. 
What wrong Ive done, most of you went shares in. Ive to 
live, havnt I ? same as the rest of you. However, it makes no 
odds to me, I guess the truth is the truth and a lie is a lie, on 
the Book or off it. 

BABSY. Do as youre told. Who are you, to be let talk 
about it? 

THE SHERIFF. Silence there, I tell you. Sail ahead, Elder. 

ELDER DANIELS. Feemy Evans: do you swear to tell the 
truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so 
help you God. 

FEEMY. I do, so help me 

SHERIFF. Thats enough. Now, on your oath, did you see 
the prisoner on my horse this morning on the road to Pony 

FEEMY. On my oath [Disturbance and crowding at the 

AT THE DOOR. Now then, now then! Where are you 
shovin to? Whats up? Order in court. Chuck him out. 
Silence. You cant come in here. Keep back. 

Strapper rushes to the door and forces his way out. 

SHERIFF [savagely] Whats this noise? Cant you keep 
quiet there? Is this a Sheriff's court or is it a saloon? 

BLANCO. Dont interrupt a lady in the act of hanging a 
gentleman. Wheres your manners? 

FEEMY. Fll hang you, Blanco Posnet. I will. I wouldnt 
for fifty dollars I hadnt seen you this morning. I'll teach 
you to be civil to me next time, for all I'm not good enough 
to kiss the Book. 

BLANCO. Lord keep me wicked till I die! I'm game for 
anything while youre spitting dirt at me, Feemy. 

RENEWED TUMULT AT THE DOOR. Here, whats this? Fire 


them out. Not me. Who are you that I should get out of 
your way? Oh, stow it. Well, she cant come in. What 
woman? What horse? Whats the good of shoving like that? 
Who says? No! you dont say! 

THE SHERIFF. Gentlemen of the Vigilance Committee: 
clear that doorway. Out with them in the name of the law. 

STRAPPER [without] Hold hard, George. [At the door] 
Theyve got the horse. [He comes in, followed by Waggoner 
Jo y an elderly carter , who crosses the court to the jury side. Strap- 
per pushes his way to the S her if and speaks privately to him]. 

THE BOYS. What! No! Got the horse! Sheriff's horse! 
Who took it, then? Where? Get out. Yes it is, sure. I tell 
you it is. It's the horse all right enough. Rot. Go and look. 
By Gum! 

THE SHERIFF [to Strapper] You dont say! 

STRAPPER. It's here, I tell you. 

WAGGONER jo. It's here all right enough, Sheriff. 

STRAPPER. And theyve got the thief too. 

ELDER DANIELS. Then it aint Blanco. 

STRAPPER. No: it's a woman. [Blanco yells and covers his 
eyes with his hands]. 


THE SHERIFF. Well, fetch her in. [Strapper goes out. The 
Sheriff continues, to Feemy] And what do you mean, you ly- 
ing jade, by putting up this story on us about Blanco? 

FEEMY. I aint put up no story on you. This is a plant: 
you see if it isnt. 

Strapper returns with a woman. Her expression of intense 
grief silences them as they crane over one another's heads to see 
her. Strapper takes her to the corner of the table. The Elder 
moves up to make room for her. 

BLANCO [terrified] Sheriff: that woman aint real. You 
take care. That woman will make you do what you never in- 
tended. Thats the rainbow woman. Thats the woman that 
brought me to this. 

THE SHERIFF. Shut your mouth, will you. Youve got the 
horrors. [To the woman] Now you. Who are you? and what 



are you doing with a horse that doesnt belong to you ? 

THE WOMAN. I took it to save my child's life. I thought 
it would get me to a doctor in time. The child was choking 
with croup. 

BLANCO [strangling, and trying to laugh] A little choker: 
thats the word for him. His choking wasnt real: wait and 
see mine. [He feels his neck with a sob}. 

THE SHERIFF. Where's the child? 

STRAPPER. On Pug Jackson's bench in his shed. He's 
makin a coffin for it. 

BLANCO [with a horrible convulsion of the throat frantic- 
ally] Dead! The little Judas kid! The child I gave my life 
for! [He breaks into hideous laughter]. 

THE SHERIFF \jarred beyo nd endurance by the sound] Hold 
your noise, will you. Shove his neckerchief into his mouth if 
he dont stop. [To the woman] Dont you mind him, maam: 
he's mad with drink and devilment. I suppose theres no fake 
about this, Strapper. Who found her? 

WAGGONER jo. I did, Sheriff. Theres no fake about it. I 
came on her on the track round by Red Mountain. She was 
settin on the ground with the dead body on her lap, stupid- 
like. The horse was grazin on the other side o the road. 

THE SHERIFF \puzzted] Well, this is blamed queer. [To 
the woman] What call had you to take the horse from Elder 
Daniel's stable to find a doctor? Theres a doctor in the very 
next house. 

allygay] Story simply wont wash, my angel. You got it from 
the man that stole the horse. He gave it to you because he 
was a softy and went to bits when you played off the sick kid 
on him. Well, I guess that clears me* I'm not that sort. Catch 
me putting my neck in a noose for anybody's kid! 

THE FOREMAN. Dont you go putting her up to what to 
say. She said she took it. 

THE WOMAN. Yes: I took it from a man that met me. I 
thought God sent him to me. I rode here joyfully thinking so 
all the time to myself. Then I noticed that the child was like 


lead in my arms. God would never have been so cruel as to 
send me the horse to disappoint me like that. 

BLANCO. Just what He would do. 

STRAPPER. We aint got nothin to do with that. This is 
the man, aint he? [pointing to Blanco]. 

THE WOMAN \pulling her self together after looking scaredly 
at Blanco, and then at the Sheriff and at the jury] No. 

THE FOREMAN. You lie. 

THE SHERIFF. Youve got to tell us the truth. Thats the 
law, you know. 

THE WOMAN. The man looked a bad man. He cursed me; 
and he cursed the child: God forgive him! But something 
came over him. I was desperate. I put the child in his arms; 
and it got its little fingers down his neck and called him 
Daddy and tried to kiss him; for it was not right in its head 
with the fever. He said it was a little Judas kid, and that it 
was betraying him with a kiss, and that he'd swing for it. 
And then he gave me the horse, and went away crying and 
laughing and singing dreadful dirty wicked words to hymn 
tunes like as if he had seven devils in him. 

STRAPPER. She's lying. Give her the oath, George. 

THE SHERIFF. Go easy there. Youre a smart boy, Strapper; 
but youre not Sheriff yet. This is my job. You just wait. 
I submit that we're in a difficulty here. If Blanco was the 
man, the lady cant, as a white woman, give him away. She 
oughtnt to be put in the position of having either to give 
him away or commit perjury. On the other hand, we dont 
want a horse- thief to get off through a lady's delicacy. 

THE FOREMAN. No we dont; and we dont intend he shall. 
Not while I am foreman of this jury. 

BLANCO [with intense expression] A rotten foreman! Oh, 
what a rotten foreman ! 

THE SHERIFF. Shut up, will you. Providence shows us a 
way out here. Two women saw Blanco with a horse. One has 
a delicacy about saying so. The other will excuse me saying 
that delicacy is not her strongest holt. She can give the 
necessary witness. Feemy Evans: youve taken the oath. 



You saw the man that took the horse. 

FEEMY. I did. And he was a low-down rotten drunken 
lying hound that would go further to hurt a woman any day 
than to help her. And if he ever did a good action it was 
because he was too drunk to know what he was doing. So 
it's no harm to hang him. She said he cursed her and went 
away blaspheming and singing things that were not fit for 
the child to hear. 

BLANCO [troubled] I didnt mean them for the child to 
hear, you venomous devil. 

THE SHERIFF. All thats got nothing to do with us. The 
question you have to answer is, w a s that man Blanco Posnet ? 

THE WOMAN. No. I say no. I swear it. Sheriff: dont hang 
that man: oh dont. You may hang me instead if you like: 
Ive nothing to live for now. You darent take her word 
against mine. She never had a child : I can see it in her face. 

FEEMY [stung to the quick] I can hang him in spite of you, 
anyhow. Much good your child is to you now, lying there 
on Pug Jackson's bench ! 

BLANCO [rushing at her with a shriek] I'll twist your heart 
out of you for that. [They seize him before he can reach her]. 

FEEMY [mocking him as he struggles to get at her] Ha, ha, 
Blanco Posnet. You cant touch me; and I can hang you. 
Ha, ha! Oh, I'll do for you. I'll twist your heart and I'll 
twist your neck [He is dragged back to the bar and leans on it, 
gasping and exhausted]. Give me the oath again, Elder, I'll 
settle him. And do you [to the woman] take your sickly face 
away from in front of me. 

STRAPPER. Just turn your back on her there, will you? 

THE WOMAN. God knows I dont want to see her commit 
murder. [She folds her shawl over her head\. 

THE SHERIFF. Now, Miss Evans: cut it short. Was the 
prisoner the man you saw this morning or was he not? Yes 
or no? 

FEEMY [a little hysterically] I'll tell you fast enough* Dont 
think I'm a softy. 

THE SHERIFF [losing patience] Here: weve had enough of 


this. You tell the truth, Feemy Evans; and let us have no 
more of your lip. Was the prisoner the man or was he not? 
On your oath ? 

FEEMY. On my oath and as I'm a living woman [flinch- 
ing Oh God! he felt the little child's hands on his neck I 
cant [bursting into a flood of tears and scolding at the other 
woman] It's you with your snivelling face that has put me 
off it. [Desperately] No: it wasnt him. I only said it out of 
spite because he insulted me. May I be struck dead if I ever 
saw him with the horse! 

Everybody draws a long breath. Dead silence. 

BLANCO [whispering at her] Softy! Cry-baby! Landed 
like me! Doing what you never intended! [Taking up Jiis hat 
and speaking in his ordinary tone} I presume I may go now, 

STRAPPER. Here, hold hard. 

THE FOREMAN. Not if we know it, you dont. 

THE BOYS [barring the way to the door] You stay where 
you are. Stop a bit, stop a bit. Dont you be in such a hurry. 
Dont let him go. Not much. 

Blanco stands motionless > his eye fixed, thinking hard^ and 
apparently deaf to what is going on, 

THE SHERIFF [rising solemnly] Silence there. Wait a bit. 
I take it that if the Sheriff is satisfied and the owner of the 
horse is satisfied, theres no more to be said. I have had to 
remark on former occasions that what is wrong with this 
court is that theres too many Sheriffs in it. Today there is 
going to be one, and only one; and that one is your humble 
servant. I call that to the notice of the Foreman of the jury, 
and also to the notice of young Strapper, I am also the 
owner of the horse. Does any man say I am not? [Silence]. 
Very well, then. In my opinion, to commandeer a horse for 
the purpose of getting a dying child to a doctor is not steal- 
ing, provided, as in the present case, that the horse is re- 
turned safe and sound. I rule that there has been no theft. 

NESTOR. That aint the law, 

THE SHERIFF. I fine you a dollar for contempt of court, 



and will collect it myself off you as you leave the building. 
And as the boys have been disappointed of their natural 
sport, I shall give them a little fun by standing outside the 
door and taking up a collection for the bereaved mother of 
the late kid that shewed up Blanco Posnet. 

THE BOYS. A collection. Oh, I say! Calls that sport? Is 
this a mothers' meeting? Well, I'll be jiggered! Where does 
the sport come in ? 

THE SHERIFF [continuing] The sport comes in, my friends, 
not so much in contributing as in seeing others fork out. 
Thus each contributes to the general enjoyment; and all 
contribute to his. Blanco Posnet: you go free under the pro- 
tection of the Vigilance Committee for just long enough to 
get you out of this town, which is not a healthy place for you. 
As you are in a hurry, I'll sell you the horse at a reasonable 
figure. Now, boys, let nobody go out till I get to the door. 
The court is adjourned. [He goes out]. 

STRAPPER [to Feemy> as he goes to the door] I'm done with 
you. Do you hear? I'm done with you. [He goes out sulkily]. 

FEEMY [calling after him] As if I cared about a stingy brat 
like you! Go back to the freckled maypole you left for me: 
youve been fretting for her long enough. 

THE FOREMAN [to Blanco y on his way out] A man like you 
makes me sick. Just sick. [Blanco makes no sign. The Fore- 
man spits disgustedly, and follows Strapper out. The Jurymen 
leave the box, except Nestor, who collapses in a drunken sleep}. 

BLANCO [suddenly rushing from the bar to the table and 
jumping up on it] Boys, I'm going to preach you a sermon 
on the moral of this day's proceedings. 

THE BOYS [crowding round him] Yes: lets have a sermon* 
Go ahead, Blanco. Silence for Elder Blanco. Tune the organ 
Let us pray. 

NESTOR [staggering out of his sleep] Never hold up your 
head in this town again. I'm done with you. 

BLANCO [pointing inexorably to Nestor] Drunk in church* 
Disturbing the preacher. Hand him out- 

THE BOYS [chivying Nestor out] Now, Nestor, outside. 


Outside, Nestor. Out you go. Get your subscription ready 
for the Sheriff. Skiddoo, Nestor. 

NESTOR. Afraid to be hanged! Afraid to be hanged! {At 
the door] Coward! [He is thrown out]. 

BLANCO. Dearly beloved brethren 

A BOY. Same to you, Blanco. [Laughter]. 

BLANCO. And many of them. Boys : this is a rotten world. 

ANOTHER BOY. Lord have mercy on us, miserable sinners. 
[More laughter}. 

BLANCO [forcibly] No: thats where youre wrong. Dont 
flatter yourselves that youre miserable sinners. Am I a miser- 
able sinner ? No: I'm a fraud and a failure. I started in to be a 
bad man like the rest of you. You all started in to be bad 
men or you wouldnt be in this jumped-up, jerked-off, hos- 
pital-turned-out camp that calls itself a town. I took the 
broad path because I thought I was a man and not a snivel- 
ling canting turning-the-other-cheek apprentice angel serv- 
ing his time in a vale of tears. They talked Christianity to 
us on Sundays; but when they really meant business they 
told us never to take a blow without giving it back, and to 
get dollars. When they talked the golden rule to me, I just 
looked at them as if they werent there, and spat. But when 
they told me to try to live my life so that I could always 
look my fellowman straight in the eye and tell him to go to 
hell, that fetched me. 

THE BOYS. Quite right. Good. Bully for you, Blanco, old 
son. Right good sense too. Aha-a-ah! 

BLANCO. Yes; but whats come of it all? Am I a real bad 
man ? a man of game and grit? a man that does what he likes 
and goes over or through other people to his own gain? or 
am I a snivelling cry-baby that let a horse his life depended 
on be took from him by a woman, and then sat on the grass 
looking at the rainbow and let himself be took like a hare in 
a trap by Strapper Kemp: a lad whose back I or any grown 
man here could break against his knee? I'm a rottener fraud 
and failure than the Elder here. And youre all as rotten as 
me, or youd have lynched me. 



A BOY. Anything to oblige you, Blanco. 

ANOTHER. We can do it yet if you feel really bad about it. 

BLANCO. No: the devil's gone out of you. We're all frauds. 
Theres none of us real good and none of us real bad. 

ELDER DANIELS. There is One above, Blanco. 

BLANCO. What do y o u know about Him ? you that always 
talk as if He never did anything without asking your rotten 
leave first? Why did the child die? Tell me that if you can. 
He cant have wanted to kill the child. Why did He make 
me go soft on the child if He was going hard on it Himself? 
Why should He go hard on the innocent kid and go soft on 
a rotten thing like me? Why did I go soft myself? Why did 
the Sheriff go soft? Why did Feemy go soft? Whats this 
game that upsets our game? For seems to me theres two 
games bein played. Our game is a rotten game that makes 
me feel I'm dirt and that your all as rotten dirt as me. 
T'other game may be a silly game; but it aint rotten. When 
the Sheriff played it he stopped being rotten. When Feemy 
played it the paint nearly dropped off her face. When I 
played it I cursed myself for a fool; but I lost the rotten feel 
all the same. 

ELDER DANIELS. It was the Lord speaking to your soul, 

BLANCO. Oh yes: you know all about the Lord, dont you? 
Youre in the Lord's confidence* He wouldnt for the world 
to anything to shock you, would He, Boozy dear? Yah! 
What about the croup? It was early days when He made the 
croup, I guess. It was the best He could think of then; but 
when it turned out wrong on His hands He made you and 
me to fight the croup for him. You bet He didnt make us for 
nothing; and He wouldnt have made us at all if He could 
have done His work without us. By Gum, that must be what 
we're for! He'd never have made us to be rotten drunken 
blackguards like me, and good-for-nothing rips like Feemy. 
He made me because He had a job for me. He let me run 
loose til the job was ready; and then I had to come along 
and do it, hanging or no hanging. And I tell you it didnt feel 


rotten : it felt bull y, just bully. Anyhow, I got the rotten feel 
off me for a minute of my life; and I'll go through fire to get 
it off me again. Look here! which of you will marry Feemy 

THE BOYS [uproariously] Who speaks first? Who'll marry 
Feemy? Come along, Jack. Nows your chance, Peter. Pass 
along a husband for Feemy. Oh my! Feemy! 

FEEMY [shortly] Keep your tongue off" me, will you? 

BLANCO. Feemy was a rose of the broad path, wasnt she ? 
You all thought her the champion bad woman of this dis- 
trict. Well, she's a failure as a bad woman; and I'm a failure 
as a bad man. So let Brother Daniels marry us to keep all 
the rottenness in the family. What do you say, Feemy? 

FEEMY. Thank you; but when I marry I'll marry a man 
that could do a decent action without surprising himself 
out of his senses. Youre like a child with a new toy: you and 
your bit of human kindness! 

THE WOMAN. How many would have done it with their 
life at stake? 

FEEMY. Oh well, if youre so much taken with him, marry 
him yourself. Youd be what people call a good wife to him, 

THE WOMAN. I was a good wife to the child's father. I 
dont think any woman wants to be a good wife twice in her 
life. I want somebody to be a good husband to me now. 

BLANCO. Any offer, gentlemen, on that understanding? 
[The boys shake their heads]. Oh, it's a rotten game, our game. 
Here's a real good woman; and she's had enough of it, find- 
ing that it only led to being put upon. 

HANNAH. Well, if there was nothing wrong in the world 
there wouldnt be anything left for us to do, would there? 

ELDER DANIELS. Be of good cheer, brothers. Seek the path. 

BLANCO. No. No more paths. No more broad and narrow. 
No more good and bad. Theres no good and bad; but by 
Jimmy, gents, theres a rotten game, and theres a great game. 
I played the rotten game; but the great game was played on 
me; and now I'm for the great game every time. Amen. 



Gentlemen: let us adjourn to the saloon. I stand the drinks. 
[He jumps down from the table]. 

THE BOYS. Right you are, Blanco. Drinks round. Come 
along, boys. Blanco's standing. Right along to the Elder's. 
Hurrah ! [They rush out, dragging the Elder with them]. 

BLANCO [to Feemy, offering his hand\ Shake, Feemy. 

FEEMY. Get along, you blackguard. 

BLANCO. It's come over me again, same as when the kid 
touched me, same as when you swore a lie to save my neck. 

FEEMY. Oh well, here. [They shake hands].